Ajax manager Erik ten Hag was delighted with his side’s “historic victory” over Real Madrid in the Champions League in what had initially seemed “unthinkable”.
After losing the first leg of their last-16 tie 2-1 at Amsterdam, Ajax were expected to take a low-key exit from the competition at the hands of 13-time winners Real on Tuesday night at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Instead, the Dutch giants pulled off a remarkable comeback that saw Hakim Ziyech and David Neres scored inside 18 minutes to put them two goals up on the reigning champions.
Despite Marco Asensio pegging one back for Real in the second-half after Dusan Tadic’s goal, Lasse Schone sealed Ajax’s path to the quarter-finals with a stunning free-kick to secure a 4-1 win.
“It’s a historic victory of incredible importance,” said Ten Hag, according to Marca.
“It’s almost unthinkable, almost nobody believed it could happen,” he explained in his post-match press conference.
“The plan we had was to have possession and make Real Madrid uncomfortable in their game.
“We performed really well in transition and defended incredibly. All the boys have been fantastic and I’m very happy for Ajax and Dutch football.”
However, de Godenzonen had a nervous four-minute wait for VAR to clear Tadic’s goal in the second-half amid doubts over whether the ball had gone out of play during the build-up to the goal.
“I saw it as I was on the line, but we had to wait,” admitted Ten Hag. “It was a very tense moment.
“Yet, this time it went in our favour.”
Following a 5-3 aggregate win over Real, Ajax will find out who they will take on in the quarter-finals on March 15.
Before then, however, Ten Hag’s side have a home match against Fortuna Sittard in the Eredivisie where they will hope to grab victory and close the gap down to league leaders PSV Eindhoven to two points.
A KNVB cup final also awaits them on May 5 against Willem II before they enter the summer transfer window, where a number of key players are expected to depart the Amsterdam Arena.
One example is Frenkie de Jong, who has agreed to join Barcelona for next season.
“We have to remember this day and enjoy it,” admitted Ten Hag.
“We’re alive in three competitions and have had a very good season, but the prizes don’t come until the end of the campaign.
“We want to achieve our goals, we have to set the bar even higher and continue to improve, I wish we could keep our players at the club, but I know that’s a utopian fantasy.”