How Real Madrid’s season unravelled in 7 days!
by Chirag R Bhattad
Real Madrid have hit a major low. It is early March and the capital club are fighting for no trophies and have little to look forward to for the next two and a half months. Things were looking brighter and much better a couple of weeks ago. Infact, as early as the morning of 27th February, Madrid would have been buzzing with expectation, with an impressive 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Copa Del Rey at the Camp Nou fresh in their minds.
The second leg was later that night in the Santiago Bernabeu and Real Madrid were just marginally favourites to win the tie and advance to the finals of the Copa Del Rey. Apart from the Copa Del Rey fixture, they were also going to face FC Barcelona in La Liga, with a positive result leading to an exciting title race during the last 3 and a half months.
With a 2-1 away win at Amsterdam, Madrid were also very confident of progressing in the Champions League, with the second leg at home. But something extremely rare happened. Real Madrid’s season unravelled in a matter of 7 days, bringing any hopes of a silverware this season crashing down.
They had a brilliant first half against FC Barcelona, but Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema fluffed their lines and failed to capitalize on some slack defending by the Barca defenders. As expected, they were punished for their profligacy, with Luis Suarez scoring two goals and forcing an own goal in the second half to thrash Real Madrid 3-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate.
Just like that, the favourites were out of the Spanish Cup, a competition they had pinned most of their hopes on for silverware. But they had no time to reflect. Within three days, they invited FC Barcelona to the Santiago Bernabeu once again, this time in the La Liga. It was a cagey affair, one which failed to spark into life. Ivan Rakitic pounced onto a piece of genius by Sergio Roberto to dink cleverly over Thibaut Courtois, giving Barcelona a narrow 1-0 victory.
With that defeat, the lead at the top of the table between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid grew to 12 points, making it virtually unassailable with so little games left. But the big shock was yet to come. A young team, averaging just about 24.5 years of age on average came to the daunting Santiago Bernabeu to overturn a single goal deficit.
The young AFC Ajax side played with fearlessness, with Dusan Tadic playing bringing out his tricks to dazzle the Santiago Bernabeu crowd. He created two goals and scored one with aplomb to silence the 70,000 odd Madridistas. Hakim Ziyech scored his second goal of the tie while Lasse Schone curling in a delightfully unstoppable effort to score Ajax’s 4th away goal and put Real Madrid to bed.
Within a span of 7 days, Real Madrid had crashed out of the Copa Del Rey, they had lost the 3rd El Clasico of the season, virtually shutting their La Liga title hopes shut and their humiliation at the hands of young Ajax kids knocked them out of the Champions League. Just like that, Madrid were left with nothing left to play for this season.
With real Madrid confirming the arrival of Zinedine Zidane, it will be interesting to see if the Frenchman is able to motivate a Ronaldo-less team with little left to play for to produce consistent results to hold onto the job long enough to get a blank check in the summer transfer window.