Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari hailed Marco Asensio and his side’s fighting spirit to take earn a win over an ‘aggressive’ Ajax on Wednesday night in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Asensio, whose game time for Real Madrid has been limited amid injury this season, came on as a second-half substitute to score the winner five minutes from time at the Johan Cruyff Arena, meaning Solari’s side not only earned the win but take two vital away goals back to the Bernabeu for the second leg on 5 March.
Speaking in his press conference after the game, Solari hailed Asensio’s impact from the bench to score the winner.
He said (via Marca): “I’m particularly happy with his goal and his performance.
“He has played in three of the four games since he came back from the injury. He has done everything he had to do, not only for the goal but for how he managed the game, for how he defended and his effectiveness in reaching the opposition goal.”
Real Madrid were given a stern test by Ajax, who looked good for a draw after equalising in the second half through Hakim Ziyech. Solari acknowledged how hard his side were made to work for the win, suggesting the hosts played at the ‘limits’ of the rules on occasion.
Solari added (as quoted by ABC): “Ajax saved energy for this match and today they took it all out on us. They forced us, they locked us up, they took the ball away from us … Aggressively, sometimes at the limit of the rules, trying to take advantage of all the loopholes in the game.
“This is the Champions League, they are already in the last 16, there is no team that is not very good. It has made us work hard to win.”
Now on an eight-match unbeaten run, Real Madrid return to league action as they take on Levante on 24 February.