So there you have it. Real Madrid have won the league, a record 33rd league title. Their first in five years and only the second in nine. Records were smashed along the way, including scoring 58 away league goals breaking their own record from 2014/15, scoring in every league game for the first time in its history and many more.
I remember saying in August 2014 that our lack of squad depth would ruin our chances for titles that season. We went on a 22 game winning run, part of which was without Modric and it seemed okay until James injured for two months and we were forced to play Illarramendi and Lucas Silva.
It’s a rarity in modern football that a team wins silverware and you can’t say for certain that one person was the key to the title. Yes Ronaldo scored crucial goals at the business end of the season as usual but the league is won from August and players like Asensio, Ramos, Casemiro and even Mariano have all been fundamental in achieving this much awaited success so the credit will go to Zidane.
Truth is this Madrid team under Zidane has shown the sort of will and mentality needed in champions since last season where they pushed Barcelona all the way and fell just one point short of the title.
That’s in the past now. The most important information presently, is that Real Madrid are league winners again. So with that in mind, here are five games that proved they were worthy winners.
Barcelona 1 – 1 Real Madrid (Dec. 3rd 2016)
At this point Real Madrid had begun making it a habit to score late goals with Sergio Ramos front and center of a Toni Kroos set piece most of the time. Barcelona led early in the second half and should have extended their lead. They didn’t. With almost the last kick of the game, this time Kroos won’t be taking the set piece but Modric delivered the ball into the box, Ramos pounced. You know the rest. And unless I’m mistaken that’s the first time those two have combined for a goal. Barcelona were enraged, cue the “lucky one” continually aimed at Zidane. That goal ensured Real Madrid’s unbeaten start to the season continued.
Point gap before game (+6), After (+6)
Real Madrid 3 – 3 Las Palmas (March 1st 2017)
Fine details decide finals and even finer details decide games and this one was one of them. A moment of madness from Bale threatened to ruin Madrid’s charge towards the title even as early as March. Madrid weren’t spectacular in this game it must be noted so a red card at the beginning of the second half to Bale was not what Madrid needed this after he returned from a long-term injury and bagged in two goals immediately to show his worth.
Madrid were 1-3 down by the hour mark and it should have been more if former Madrid boy came with Jesè came with his shooting boots. But Ronaldo then decided Madrid needed a point and his two goals in the final four minutes ensured that. If Laliga were a better league, with Bale’s red, substitutions, celebrations, time-wasting (from Palmas), etc. More than two minutes extra time would’ve been added. But this was one point gained, rather than two lost. Side note…aside from “those ones”, Las Palmas were the only team Madrid didn’t pick three points from either at home or away.
*Point gap before game (+4) , after (-1)
Atlètico Madrid 0 – 3 Real Madrid (Nov. 19th 2016)
It’s been happening every season. This season wasn’t any different. Next season would be the same. You must have heard it countless times by now. “Cristiano Ronaldo is past his time”. “He’s finished”, “Thank God he signed a new contract because Madrid are worse with him” etc. And Like every season before, it wasn’t a surprise to see him silence his critics. Real went into this game knowing Barca had missed the chance to go top earlier against Malaga so a win was a must against a team where domestically in recent years have an inferior record.
Not that it mattered to Zidane and Cr7. A tactical masterclass from Zidane and a world-class performance from Isco ensured that all Ronaldo had to was score his 40th hat-trick for Madrid, overtaking Di Stefano’s record of 18 goals in Madrid derbies in the process. This after Madrid were missing five starters.
*Point gap before game (+2), after (+4)
Villarreal 2 – 3 Real Madrid (Feb. 26 2017)
Sigh. They never make it easy Real Madrid. Days earlier, Madrid had lost their game-in-hand to *shocker* Valencia (more on this in my next piece). So this was a must win even though the opponent had conceded a league best 15 goals at the time. The fact that Barcelona had earlier just won their own game away to Atlètico only made this more important. But Somehow Real went behind in six second half minutes and had it all to do after an hour had been played.
Like we came to learn from Madrid this season, their attitude was their biggest strength. Here they are two goals down against a team that hardly concedes. A team that had beaten Simeone’s Atlètico by three goals earlier in the season and the response was magnificent. First Bale met Carvajal’s cross almost like his debut goal on the same ground only this time with his head. Then Ronaldo scored a penalty and with six minutes to go. Morata then scored the winner. Great stuff.
*Point gap before game (+1), after (+1)
Real Madrid 2 – 1 Valencia C.F (April 29th 2017)
Valencia. Valencia. Valencia. This club has been a torment in my life since I can remember. I was so glad when we played them earlier in the season and lost because it meant Madrid won’t have to deal with them again only to remember we had to play them again at the business end of the season at home. Why is this a bother you ask? Well for starters, before Zidane took charge last season, Valencia had gone unbeaten at the Bernabeu for four consecutive seasons and somehow they always seemed to end our title hopes. They’re a very frustrating club. Sure we beat them 1-5 once in 2013 in their home but make no mistake they are Real Madrid’s boogie team and this time we nearly came undone again but once we won this game, I knew for sure we were winning the league.
Ronaldo got us rolling (again), then we seemed to forget who we were playing and didn’t extend our lead. Then in the 82nd minute former Madrid youth product Parejo whipped in a free kick to level matters and Madrid seemed destined to drop points which would, in reality even with a game-in-hand have gifted Barcelona the title. Then came Marcelo who is having one of his best seasons in a Madrid shirt with a curler on his weaker foot.
This game more than any other was so crucial and after this there wasn’t any game left where I felt we were going to drop points. Valencia worry me more than any other team in Spain and with them signing the brilliant Marcelino as manager for next season, one can only hope for the best.
*Point gap before game (Barcelona adv. on head-to-head), after (Same result).
Real Madrid are finally champions and it was down to great team ethic, squad depth and a staunch mentality also most importantly, Zidane. He will still have his doubters for sure but with him as manager hopefully for a long-term, the sky is the limit for him and the Spanish champions.