Ten Hag hails 'excellent' Ajax after VAR controversy

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Erik ten Hag lauded Ajax and said the Dutch side can take confidence from their controversial loss to Champions League holders Real Madrid.

Ajax pressed Madrid but lost 2-1 at home to the three-time reigning champions in the opening leg of their last-16 tie in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

Nicolas Tagliafico had a goal disallowed in the first half following a VAR review, with referee Damir Skomina penalising Dusan Tadic for interfering with Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois while in an offside position.

Ajax then fell behind to Karim Benzema's opener before Hakim Ziyech equalised, though Marco Asensio snatched victory for Madrid with three minutes remaining at Johan Cruijff ArenA.

Speaking afterwards, Ajax head coach Ten Hag told reporters: "I've seen an excellent Ajax against an opponent of world class and one of the best of Europe, Real Madrid. I think in most parts of the game we dominated the game and created some big chances.

"This was because of our good defence and the high pressure on the ball. That helped us create chances, but also in the build-up we played and got some chances and I saw a very good Ajax. We created chances on this high European level against a world class team.

"Only point of criticism is our lack in efficacy. We should have done this better, then we would have scored one or more times extra. And the other negative thing is that we have to stay focused until the end. If you make small errors, a team like Real Madrid are merciless and will punish you for that. That was the case this night.

"And then the moment with the VAR, which can be very crucial in this phase of the competition, with the goal being ruled out. It's such a shame this goal wasn't approved.

"But all the compliments for my team. They followed the plan and play with a good spirit. This gives us confidence for the future. This is the way we have to continue."