The title is back in Madrid after five hard years and deservedly so. From Bale’s header at the Anoeta to Benzema’s finish at La Rosaleda it’s been a fantastic season from start to finish. To be honest though, there were times when it felt like Real Madrid were going to lose yet another league title even though these were early on in the season.
Before every season begins you could almost guess the games were Real Madrid would drop points. There are few surprises here.
It doesn’t matter now though, but here are five games where it felt as though the league had slipped from Madrid’s reach after they led for so long.
Sevilla 2 -1 Real Madrid (Jan. 15 2017)
Real Madrid were on an unbeaten run. In fact, they were on a record 40 game unbeaten run which included two Copa Del Rey games against Sevilla especially the second leg at the Sànchez Pizjuàn were they came from 3 – 1 down to draw 3-3 with a much rotated team. So coming into this Real were very confident and to be honest Sevilla failed to threaten and even after Ronaldo’s second-half penalty, it didn’t feel like anything was going to harm Real’s unbeaten run that night or at least their changed three-man defence. That was until Ramos scored an 85th minute own-goal much to the appreciation of the people far in Barcelona and those at home in Seville.
It was all well and good, no pressure. A draw isn’t bad away from home especially if at that moment that was the team behind you by four points. But somehow Madrid managed to give away the ball on the throw-in line, Jovetic pounced as he had done in the cup and shattered Madrid hearts. He would go on to score at the Bernabeu again. I’ve seen tons of Madrid games but It’s been too long since I saw a game like this one were we deserved all three points and came out empty-handed. It was ridiculous.
The previous Spanish record was Barcelona’s 39 game unbeaten run which began after a 2-1 loss at Sevilla; it was ended by Madrid. Madrid’s 40 game unbeaten run was subsequently ended by a 2-1 loss at Sevilla.
*Point gap before game (+4), after (+1)
Real Madrid 3 -3 Las Palmas (March 1st 2017)
I already spoke about this game in detail in my last piece so I’ll just say this; a game in which we should have won we ended up going 1-3 down until the final few minutes were CR7 scored a brace to hand us a point. Oh yea Bale saw red two minutes into the second half.
At this point you start having that same feeling season after season that Real were about to bottle yet again but in context, you can’t really be mad about one point after playing with a man down for so long. Case in Point…..
*Point gap before game (+4) , after (-1)
Real Madrid 2 – 3 Barcelona (April 23rd 2017)
Remember those games I talked about that were certain dropped points? Yup. This is one of them. You can never fully trust Real when Barca come visiting at the Bernabeu. In 2011/12 we were miles ahead the best team in Spain but somehow we lost to Barcelona at the Bernabeu. It happened again this season. Somehow we lost to one of the worst Barcelona teams in recent memory.
To be honest when I saw the line up I saw it coming. We came into this game needing at least a draw to kill off the title race virtually. We were three points ahead and in the last few seconds lost it after equalising through James some minutes after Ramos was rightly sent off. We lost the plot.
To add insult to injury, Messi then scored his 500th Barcelona goal at the Bernabéu. The one thing I had hoped we’d avoid. I thought the Sevilla game was painful. This was worse. By miles. This is one game Zidane got it completely wrong from the beginning. If anything though at least it was an interesting Clàsico for the first time in years.
*Point gap before game (+3), after (Barca top on head-to-head)
Valencia C.F. 2 – 1 Real Madrid (Feb. 22nd 2017)
Yes. Them again. This wasn’t a surprise to be honest. It gets funny over time. That we had a full half to get something from this game and didn’t says a lot about the damage Valencia keeps doing to our chances every season.
Zaza before this game didn’t score in 11 appearances for West Ham (per BBC) but somehow he scored a cracker just five minutes into the game following his January move from the Hammers then a mistake from…no a calamity from Varane gifted Orellana, another January signing, the chance to double their lead after a swift counter-attack. He graciously accepted and with barely ten minutes played. Ronaldo then gave us hope just before half time but that was it.
*Point gap before game (+1), after (No change)
Real Madrid 1 – 1 Atlètico Madrid ( April 8th 2017)
At this point, and way before this game our midfield wasn’t clicking for some reason. Either due to Modric’s injury the past month or something else but it was very evident in this game again. Zidane’s refusal to field Isco and Kovacic in key games cost us especially in this game when it was clear where the problem was.
The midfield failed to link up with the forwards yet again so it was up to Pepe to come with what was most likely his last goal for the club which would be fitting given that it was at the Bernabéu. Sadly, he would leave the pitch through an injury inflicted on his rib by the person that assisted him. Kroos. Now Nacho has been immense this season but it’s hard to imagine Griezmann would’ve had that space to score late on had Pepe still been on.
Luckily for Madrid, Barcelona even fared worse as they lost at Malaga hours later. So as far as Zidane was concerned we weren’t punished further.
*Point gap before game (+2), after (+3)
It was a great season in for Real Madrid and Zidane in general. After being termed “lucky”, he’s managed to keep a locker room very focused and knitted together even in the worse times in order to achieve success.
These games all served as different lessons during the course of the season and for seasons to come but for now they can be forgotten.