What an atmosphere it proved to be at the storied Johan Cruijff Arena as Champions League football returned to the Netherlands. The stadium smelled of success, tradition and history as all sorts of colourful banners were decked out as Ajax Amsterdam took on champions Real Madrid.
Indeed, the occasion wasn’t much of a surprise as the last time the Dutch giants reached this stage of the competition was in 2003 thus the grandeur that accompanied it with fans knowing how much of a bonus it was for their team to qualify for the last-16. Notable faces of past Ajax and Dutch greats also added a sense of success that Ajax has longed crave for on the European stage as Van Der Vaart, Frank De Boer and Patrick Kluivert were several of the faces who had turned up, to lend their support.
Significantly, the home team needed all the support they could get given their underdog status but as soon as the referee blew his whistle to commence the game, the script was re-written as Ajax’s young stars put on a performance for the ages. Erik ten Hag’s charges had a clear gameplan and it was to press Madrid with intensity as Ajax’ players pressured Madrid’s players relentlessly making Madrid struggle to get out of their own half.