How fitting that it was graduation day here in Turin. For this was another coming-of-age performance from a simply brilliant young Ajax side, advancing to the semi-finals after Cristiano Ronaldo had threatened to lecture them in the competition that is his specialist subject.
There were graduates wearing the customary crown of flowers all over the sun-splashed city during the day.
But come nightfall Ronaldo’s own crown had slipped, the only reigning champion left in this season’s renewal dethroned by the last-16 conquerors of his former club — and holders — Real Madrid.
Dutch giants Ajax defied the odds to knock Juventus out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage on Tuesday
Ajax wonderkid Matthijs de Ligt scored a fine headed winner in Turin to send shockwaves through the rest of Europe
Juventus had got off to a good start when Cristiano Ronaldo (left) scored the game’s opening goal inside the first half an hour
But Ajax hit back swiftly when midfielder Donny van de Beek netted an away goal to square the tie up at 2-2 on aggregate
Ronaldo and thousands of Juventus fans looked stunned after Ajax scored their second away goal to take control of the tie
Juventus XI: Szczesny; De Sciglio (Cancelo 64), Bonucci, Rugani, Sandro; Can, Pjanic, Matuidi; Bernardeschi (Bentancur 80), Dybala (Kean 46), Ronaldo
Subs: Barzagli, Khedira, Pinsoglio, Spinazzola
Goals: Ronaldo 28
Booked: Can, Ronaldo
Ajax XI: Onana; Veltman, De Ligt, Blind, Mazraoui (Sinkgraven 11, Magallan 82); Schone, De Jong; Ziyech (Huntelaar 88), Van de Beek, Neres; Tadic
Subs: De Wit, Dolberg, Varela, Ekkelenkamp
Goals: Van de Beek 34, De Ligt 67
When the Juventus star scored his 126th Champions League goal in the first half it seemed unimaginable that he would not remain on course for his fourth straight title.
Ajax, though, were never going to surrender to convention, just as they refused to during last month’s stunning 4-1 victory in the Bernabeu.
And so it is that thanks to goals from the outstanding Donny van de Beek, 21, and captain Matthijs de Ligt, still just 19, it is they who will face the winners of Manchester City and Spurs in the last four.
The last time the Dutch club made it this far was in 1997, pre-dating the birth of their scorers. They are the youngest team in the last eight — an average age of 24 years and eight months — and their wage bill is less than some top Championship clubs. West Brom, however, are not winning at Real Madrid and Juventus any time soon.
Not that Ajax should be either, as centre back De Ligt testified: ‘It’s bizarre, not normal. I have no words for it
‘We have defeated Real and Juventus, two intended title candidates. We are very proud, the supporters are proud, the city is proud.’
Noussair Mazraoui, pictured (right) battling with Paulo Dybala, was only on the pitch for 11 minutes as he picked up an injury
Ajax’s Moroccan international defender Mazraoui sat on the pitch holding his ankles following a challenge with Dybala
Mazraoui appeared to be in pain as he limped off down the touchline, flanked by two members of Ajax’s medical team
Juventus took the lead on 28 minutes thanks to Ronaldo, who planted a firm header beyond Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana
No 7 Ronaldo lapped up the adulation of the crowd as he leapt into the air to celebrate scoring the game’s opening goal
Ronaldo celebrated in front of the dugouts after his goal was awarded following a VAR review at Allianz Stadium in Turin
It is sad that this generation will be disbanded as quickly as they have emerged, 21-year-old midfielder Frenkie de Jong already set for Barcelona with De Ligt and Van de Beek also likely to depart this summer.
So let us enjoy them while this run lasts. It had, though, appeared to be nearing expiry when Ronaldo headed a 28th-minute opener.
Ajax boss Erik ten Hag said on the eve of the game that he would not worry about man-marking the Portugal forward. You assumed such a casual tactic would not extend to set-pieces. But apparently so, at least judging by the manner in which the unmarked Ronaldo strode gleefully onto Miralem Pjanic’s corner to head home.
Van de Beek levelled six minutes later when Hakim Ziyech’s scuffed shot was transformed into a cunning through-ball and the midfielder duly finished from eight yards.
It was deserved. Not for what had gone before, but for what followed. Juventus were rattled and the vibrant visitors set after a winner, finding it when the awesome De Ligt rose to head in Lasse Schone’s corner on 67 minutes.
This season’s European crown could yet be theirs.
Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic tapped team-mate Ronaldo on his left cheek during the celebrations after the opener
Ajax hit back in the first half when Van de Beek kept his cool to slot home a well-taken equaliser from inside the Juventus box
Van de Beek seemed to celebrate his goal before the ball had hit the net as Federico Bernardeschi appealed in vain for offside
Midfielder Van de Beek was chased by his Ajax team-mates before sliding onto his knees to celebrate scoring the equaliser
De Ligt put Ajax into dreamland when he rose above two players to power in a header and give his side the lead they deserved
Ajax celebrated in front of their travelling fans as Juventus supporters sat shell-shocked after seeing their side go behind
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