Heavenly Ajax produce perfect performance

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid – 22/11/1995 – Group stage
Real Madrid
Real Madrid
0 - 2
Ajax
  • Litmanen 65
  • Kluivert 76
Ajax
Tactical masterclass

"We were heavenly, world class. It was Ajax at their best." Frank de Boer

1995/96

• AFC Ajax's 19-game unbeaten start to life in the UEFA Champions League ended against Panathinaikos FC in March 1996 as Krzysztof Warzycha's late goal consigned them to a semi-final first-leg defeat.

• Mike Newell scored a nine-minute hat-trick, the fastest in UEFA Champions League history, as Blackburn Rovers FC beat Rosenborg BK 4-1, though the English title holders still ended bottom of Group B.

• FC Spartak Moskva won the group by a record margin, six wins helping the Russian side finish 11 points clear of runners-up Legia Warszawa. FC Nantes proved too strong in the quarter-finals, however.

AFC Ajax could hardly be billed as underdogs ahead of this group stage meeting but the manner in which they overwhelmed six-time European champions Real Madrid CF to seal top spot in Group D was spectacular.

The Spanish titleholders simply had no answer to the pace and intelligence of Jari Litmanen, Finidi George and Patrick Kluivert. The only surprise when the final whistle ended the onslaught was that the difference was just two goals.

Injury had consigned Kluivert to the sidelines for Ajax's 1-0 victory over Madrid on Matchday 1 and the 19-year-old looked determined to make up for lost time at the Santiago Bernabéu. He had already had a fine lob ruled out for offside when he rattled the woodwork with a smart volley as Rafael Alkorta struggled to keep him subdued.

Litmanen was also denied when his free-kick struck the crossbar, the ball appearing to bounce over the line. Madrid were grateful for the reprieve as they sought to build on the previous weekend's 1-0 derby victory over Club Atlético de Madrid, a step in the right direction after a torrid start to the season.

Not that UEFA Champions League holders Ajax were concerned. Indeed, the start of the second period merely signalled the resumption of their forward assault and, midway through the half, they finally broke through the barricades.

Ajax were outnumbered six to two on the counterattack but overturned the odds with aplomb, Kluivert cutting in from the right and prodding through for Litmanen to spring the offside trap and fire in. Eleven minutes later another break ended with Marc Overmars brushing aside Luis Enrique and crossing for Kluivert to divert the ball inside the far post.

"We were heavenly, world class," said Frank de Boer, who watched the game and subsequent lap of honour from the sidelines because of injury. "This was Ajax at their best."

Star players

  • Raúl González

    When Club Atlético de Madrid reduced their academy in 1992 to save costs, they could not have guessed how the measure would work against them. Striker Raúl González was welcomed with open arms by Real Madrid CF; when he left 18 years, 740 games and 323 goals later, he had helped Los Merengues to three UEFA Champions League titles and six championships. A classic goalscorer, he also registered 44 in 102 appearances for Spain.

  • Laudrup

    Laudrup missed Denmark's EURO '92 triumph through a self-imposed exile but claimed more than his share of club silverware with FC Barcelona, Juventus, Real Madrid CF and AFC Ajax. Johan Cruyff best summed up the esteem in which the elegant playmaker was held: "When Michael plays like a dream, a magic illusion, determined to show his extreme abilities, no one in the world comes anywhere near him."

  • Kluivert

    The Netherlands' record goalscorer, Kluivert was at the fulcrum of AFC Ajax's 1990s golden generation. He scored the winner in the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League final and won two championships with his hometown club before joining AC Milan and then FC Barcelona. Renowned for his aerial prowess, Kluivert won titles with Barça and PSV Eindhoven before knee injuries forced him to retire.

What happened next?

• Real Madrid CF beat Grasshopper-Club to earn a quarter-final date with Juventus, but goals from Alessandro Del Piero and Michele Padovano in Turin ended their journey after a 1-0 first-leg win.

• AFC Ajax beat BV Borussia Dortmund and Panathinaikos FC to reach the final against Juventus. After Fabrizio Ravanelli and Jari Litmanen traded goals at the Stadio Olimpico, Juve triumphed 4-2 on penalties.

• Ajax's domestic dominance continued as they won a third successive title but by the start of 1997/98 Louis van Gaal, Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars, Patrick Kluivert and Michael Reiziger had all departed.

• Defeat would become commonplace for Real Madrid in a forgettable campaign as they limped home in sixth in the Liga and missed out on a European spot. Local rivals Club Atlético de Madrid did the double.

• Within four years Litmanen and Kluivert were both plying their trade in Spain with FC Barcelona, Kluivert playing a key role as the Catalan giants pushed Madrid into second in the 1998/99 Liga season.

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