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Real Madrid: Asensio sends Solari a timely reminder

Marco Asensio presenta batalla.

Jean Catuffe

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The Spain international has not been first choice under the Argentinean but used his 18 minutes to score the winner from a team-high five shots.

Marco Asensio grew up between the Netherlands and Spain, his late mother having been Dutch, and dreamed as a kid of playing in the Johan Cruyff Arena, a goal that was made reality on Wednesday when he rescued Real Madrid against Ajax in the Champions League.

The Spain international - who has found playing time difficult to come by under Santiago Solari and with the emergence of Vinicius as a regular starter under the Argentineantook full advantage of the 18 minutes handed to him in Amsterdam and was a livewire until he finally bagged the decisive goal four minutes from time with the instinct of a number nine.

After coming on for Karim Benzema, who opened the scoring against the Dutch side, Asensio swiftly out-gunned all of his starting teammates by racking up five attempts on goal, two more than the next highest Real player, Gareth Bale, who lasted an hour in the Johan Cruyff Arena.

Solari: “I'm particularly pleased about Asensio's performance"

It was Asensio’s first goal for Madrid since the Copa del Rey rout of Melilla on 6 December and a clear reminder to Solari that although he has struggled for form this season and spent January on the sidelines with a muscle injury, Asensio was the anointed heir to Cristiano Ronaldo before Vinicius and his precocious talent drew the spotlight towards the Brazilian. As if to hammer home the point, Asensio also recovered possession three times during his cameo.

It was a far cry from his most recent substitute appearance – a six-minute leg stretch against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey – and Asensio did not even get off the bench in the derby win over Atlético, such is the competition for the forward positions at the Bernabéu.

Asensio’s performance was not lost on Solari either, who praised his player after the game: “I'm particularly pleased about Asensio's goal and performance. It's his third appearance since he came back [from injury] and he's coming on leaps and bounds, doing everything that he needs to do to gain more minutes.”