Frenkie de Jong Says Beating Real Madrid Was More Challenging Than Juventus

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2019

TURIN, ITALY - APRIL 16:  Frenkie De Jong of Ajax celebrates the victory at the end of the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Juventus and Ajax at Juventus Stadium on April 16, 2019 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)
Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong has said his side found it harder to overcome defending champions Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League than their quarter-final opponents Juventus

The Dutch side produced an excellent performance in the competition on Tuesday, as they beat the Italian giants 2-1 in Turin, ensuring a 3-2 progression into the semi-finals on aggregate. The remarkable result follows on from Ajax's upset of Madrid, as they won the last-16 tie 5-3 on aggregate; that included a stunning 4-1 success at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Despite the tighter scoreline in Italy, De Jong said after the win that the team were more comfortable against Juventus than Madrid, per RMC Sport (h/t Sacha Pisani of Goal):

"I do not know if this is the best match of our lives but it went well. In Madrid it was harder because we lost in the first leg. Juve are very strong, very disciplined, we showed in the second half the team we could be. The coach asked the same things as usual, play high and play possession. 

"Win the Champions League? We are in the semi-finals, we have a chance, but we are not favourites. But of course, it's always possible."

Given the issues Real Madrid have endured this season both in Europe and domestically, many expected Juventus to offer a much more robust test of the mettle of this Ajax team. However, the Amsterdam outfit were the dominant force for much of the quarter-final.

After Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring for the hosts, goals from Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt either side of half time were enough to see Ajax through (U.S. only):

After the game, it was clear just how much the result meant to the Ajax players:

Juventus have developed a deserved reputation in recent years for being tough to beat on home soil, so the manner in which they were swept aside was staggering.

In defence, Ajax were marshalled tremendously by De Ligt, while De Jong was a steadying influence in midfield. At the top end of the pitch, Dusan Tadic, Hakim Ziyech and David Neres were too hot to handle as well.

While Ajax supporters will be enjoying this run, they will be wary of elite sides seeking to pinch some of their star players, with De Jong having already agreed to join Barcelona. Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe compared them to the Monaco outfit of two years ago:

Rory Smith of the New York Times said stories like Ajax's are important in the competition:

Manchester City or Tottenham Hotspur await Ajax in the semi-finals. The second leg of that tie will be played on Wednesday, with Spurs taking a 1-0 lead to the Etihad Stadium.

Although fans of both clubs will be thankful they don't have Ronaldo waiting for them in the next round, Ajax have earned the right to be taken seriously this season. They have the talent, temperament and confidence needed to make it to the final in Madrid.

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