Santiago Solari 'Particularly Happy' with Marco Asensio After Winner vs. Ajax

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2019

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - FEBRUARY 13: Marco Asensio of Real Madrid celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between AFC Ajax Amsterdam and Real Madrid at Johan Cruyff Arena on February 13, 2019 in Amsterdam, . (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari said he was "particularly happy" with the performance of Marco Asensio after his winning goal in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 clash against Ajax on Wednesday.

Asensio struck with three minutes remaining to give Los Blancos a 2-1 win in Amsterdam, putting them in pole position to qualify for the quarter-finals of the competition once again.

The campaign has been a challenging one for Asensio due to form and fitness issues, with his last start for the club coming in the 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano in December in La Liga. He's only registered five goals and five assists in all competitions this term.

One of those came at the perfect time against Ajax, and after the game, Solari said he is pleased with the work Asensio is doing despite his lack of action, per Santiago Siguero of 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."

When he entered the game against Ajax with 17 minutes remaining, it was abundantly clear the Spain international wanted to make his mark on the match from an attacking sense:

The competition's Twitter account noted that the 23-year-old has a penchant for having a say on the big stage:

Despite the success he's already enjoyed with Real Madrid, Asensio is behind the pace many expected him to develop at.

All the traits are there for Asensio to become a superstar in the world game, as he can beat opponents with pace and trickery, as well as score stunning goals from almost anywhere inside the final third.

In 2018-19, he was expected to seize more responsibility following the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus in the summer, but Asensio has arguably stagnated. 

Madridistas will be hoping the dramatic winning goal will give Asensio a crucial boost, as he has all the talent needed to play a big part in what has the potential to be a memorable end to the season for the European champions. 

As Dutch football journalist Elko Born relayed, the goal was a big moment:

Solari has already proved he's prepared to make big decisions in terms of selection, with fan favourite Isco a long way down the pecking order. He's also hung a lot on 18-year-old Vincius Jr., but the young winger is responding with some excellent performances.

If Asensio can rediscover his spark, then he can give Madrid a vibrant edge in 2019. For a team still in contention for Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey success, that's an exciting prospect.  

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