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Ajax ends Real’s Champions League reign

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  • Real’s reign as 3-time champions ends at home
  • Schone scores wonder goal (video)
  • Vinicius Junior injured (MORE)
  • Nacho shown late red card

Ajax put an end to Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League reign with a 4-1 second leg at the Bernabeu on Tuesday, sending the Dutch side into the quarterfinals with a 5-3 win over two legs.

Hakim Ziyech, David Neres, Dusan Tadic, and Lasse Schone scored in the win, which reversed with ease a 2-1 first leg loss in the Netherlands.

Marco Asensio scored Real Madrid’s lone goal.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

After an early Real header off the cross bar from Raphael Varane, Ajax struck gold.

Dusan Tadic dribbled down the right before side-footing a pass to Ziyech for a shot a across goal and past Thibaut Courtois.

Neres made it 3-2 on aggregate, leveling the tie on away goals when Tadic set him up for a neatly-dinked goal.

And he nearly added another with a chip across goal that missed the upper 90.

Andre Onana stopped Lucas Vazquez’s bid to bring the tie level in the 24th.

Enter Gareth Bale. The out-of-favor Welsh star entered the game after just a half-hour, though his arrival was met by a long Vinicius dribble that cause amplification of an earlier injury.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Benzema came close to bringing the tie even at 3 when he dribbled past Ziyech to shoot across goal and wide in the 59th minute.

Ajax looked to have clinched the tie in the 63rd minute via a Tadic wonder strike, and a first replay via VAR looked like the ball had gone out of play in the build-up. A second angle, however, seemed to show it just touching the white paint, and it was ruled inconclusive.

Real got one back in the 70th minute, with substitute Marco Asensio rolling a low shot past Onana and inside the far post.

Then came Lasse Schone. What else can you say about this free kick, other than a remarkable effort accompanies a mistake from Courtois.

Schone’s marvel puts nail in Real Madrid’s coffin (video)

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Lasse Schone, mic drop.

Ajax’s 32-year-old midfielder fooled Thibaut Courtois with a stunning, curling free kick to give Ajax it’s fourth away goal of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League second leg at Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Vinicius injured ]

He was promptly subbed off the pitch.

The bearded Danish veteran spun the kick over the reach of Courtois, who had taken steps off his line in anticipation of a clipped cross.

It was Schone’s 270th appearance for the Dutch powers.

El Clasico: Barcelona triumphant at Real Madrid’s Bernabeu (again)

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Barcelona heaped more shame and embarrassment upon Real Mardid on Saturday, beating Los Blancos at the Santiago Bernabeu for the second time in four days.

[ MORE: Man City win, lose KDB | Man United come back, beat Southampton ]

In doing so, Barca became the first side to ever win four straight league games over Madrid at the Bernabeu (last home win over Barca: Oct. 25, 2014). Saturday’s result makes it six straight league meetings without a victory for Madrid (last win: April 2, 2016).

Ivan Rakitic scored the only goal of the game (WATCH HERE), assisted by Sergi Roberto, chipping the ball over a hopeless Thibaut Courtois in the 26th minute.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview: Merseyside, west London derbies on tap ]

Wednesday’s 3-0 victory in the Spanish capital sent the Blaugrana through to a seventh straight appearance in the Copa del Rey final, and even more satisfyingly came at the expense of their bitter rivals.

Barcelona look almost certain to go on and win a second straight La Liga title (and fourth in five seasons), as they now lead second-place Atletico Madrid, who play on Sunday, by 10 points. Meanwhile, the gap between El Clasico rivals is now a dozen points.

Solskjaer reminds De Gea of United’s loyalty

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has issued David De Gea with a timely reminder to remember how much trust Manchester United have put in him.

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With DDG’s contract running out in 2020 and his agent locked in talks with the Premier League club over a new deal, reports have surfaced stating that the Spanish goalkeeper wants to double his money.

Wage demands matching Alexis Sanchez’s $460,000 per week have been mentioned, and you can hardly argue with De Gea demanding that sort of cash considering he’s been United’s player of the season in four of the last five campaigns and the 28-year-old has been superb again this season.

Speaking to the media ahead of United’s clash with Southampton on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Old Trafford, Solskjaer was asked about De Gea’s contract situation.

“The club really showed how much they wanted him back in the day when Eric (Steele) and the gaffer found him. There were probably better keepers there at that time,” Solskjaer said. “But the belief the manager showed in him, given the criticism he got, paid dividends. Hopefully they will agree because David is the best goalkeeper in the world.”

Solskjaer added that “of course the club and David are in dialogue, so hopefully they’ll agree” and  he was “sure we’ll do what we can.”

If this deal doesn’t get agreed soon, there’s a real chance De Gea could be sold in the summer with United looking to bag a big transfer fee. But where would he go?

Real Madrid spent big to bring Thibaut Courtois to the Santiago Bernabeu but he’s struggled, while De Gea’s former team Atletico have Jan Oblak in goal and Barcelona are very happy with Marc Andre ter Stegen. Paris Saint-Germain have veteran Gianluigi Buffon in goal, while Juventus have Woijech Sczesny, so those are two realistic landing spots if he can’t agree a new deal with United.

Solskjaer is correct though. Remember when De Gea was thrust into the spotlight as a teenager and was heavily criticized for some high-profile mistakes? Sir Alex Ferguson stood by him and defended DDG against critics pointing to his lack of physical strength and ability to deal with crosses.

That faith has seen De Gea become one of the best goalkeepers in the world and he is adored at United. Of course, none of that means that he has to sign a new contract, but this whole loyalty thing works both ways, right?

Bale’s introverted personality beginning to spill over at Real Madrid

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Gareth Bale has been a lightning rod for Real Madrid fans over the last few years, constantly sparking debate on whether his play on the pitch is good, bad, or somewhere in between. It seems nobody can agree on the degree of contribution he provides to the club since he joined in 2013.

On one hand, Bale has scored a plethora of goals in all competitions, many of them critical. Most notably, he scored a stunning bicycle kick goal to win the Champions League last season, downing Liverpool in one jaw-dropping swoop. Just this past weekend, Bale bagged the penalty that gave Real Madrid a comeback win at Levante to avoid what would have been an embarrassing La Liga result.

Conversely, Bale is constantly a scapegoat for the lows the club faces throughout the year, with fans complaining that he has never truly meshed with the rest of the Spanish squad. To this point, those wishing to disparage his play on the field as a bigger issue Bale has with the squad had little proof to back up their argument. Now, some of those perceived character issues are beginning to spill out both on the field and in the dressing room.

On Sunday, after coming off the bench to score the winner from the spot, Bale did not celebrate his goal, actively shrugging off Lucas Vazquez to return the ball to the midway line for a restart of play. He acknowledged Nacho, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane as they came to celebrate, but nothing more than a slap of hands.

That was the first real time Bale’s rumored introverted personality has spilled onto the pitch. Recently, players have begun to joke in the media about Bale’s poor relationship with the rest of the squad. Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, in an interview with Belgian publication HLN in early February, joked about Bale failing to join the rest of the squad for a late team dinner, saying it was past his bedtime. “The other night we had a dinner with the entire squad,” Courtois said. “But Bale and [Toni] Kroos did not turn up. They considered the dinner was too late at night. We had met up at 9:30 and started eating at 10:15. But Bale didn’t come. He told us he goes to bed at 11:00.”

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a professional athlete who adheres to a strict bedtime, that was a slight window into how the rest of the squad views Bale’s personality. More damaging has been Bale’s love for golf, which has given media critics plenty of ammo in recent months. Local tabloids jumped all over Bale when he arrived at Levante’s stadium watching golf on his phone, and there are rumblings that Bale has earned the dressing room nickname “the Golfer” which Courtois seemed to confirm in his interview.

“It’s very hard to describe Bale in one word,” Courtois said in his chat with HLN. That’s honestly the best way to describe the Welsh international, and the best way to describe the descriptions of him as well. The criticisms of the 29-year-old all seem to be wildly excessive in a vacuum, but put together, it’s easier to see why his lack of togetherness with the rest of the squad may contribute to his early exit from the Bernabeu despite his numerous on-field contributions during his stay in Spain.