Here are three things that Los Blancos struggled with, and could have done differently to avoid an agonising away loss.
There was more misery in Real Madrid’s already mangled league season, as Sevilla consigned the visitors to a 3-2 defeat at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Zidane once again rang in the changes, but the Sevillistas were at full strength and easily plonked on Madrid’s fringe side. Wissam Ben Yedder and Miguel Layun combined to give the hosts a two-goal cushion by the half-time whistle.
Sergio Ramos then netted into his own net after failing to bury in the opposite one from the spot, but made amends for it deep in injury time when the skipper struck at the second bite of the cherry. But his finish proved too little, too late as Los Blancos failed to draw level with crosstown rivals Atletico, who too lost 24 hours earlier, and now remain rooted on third.
Here’s what Real Madrid got wrong in the facile 3-2 defeat:
#1 Leaving too much space at the back
Real Madrid’s backline has lacked a concrete structure throughout the season. With no solidity or robustness whatsoever, it has parted like the red sea and leaked goals like there’s no tomorrow. After conceding another three on the evening, the total for the campaign now stands at 42 goals allowed, the highest tally since 2013.
The Nervionenses cut a swathe through the visitors’ slouchy backline everytime they forayed towards the area. Luis Muriel easily headed back a long ball for an on-rushing Ben Yedder, who then slipped through the legs of Casilla. The former was let unchallenged in the air by Jesus Vallejo, while Ramos should have done much better to thwart the Frenchman.
If this was bad, then the manner of conceding the second-goal was downright laughable. Having once again left too much space at the back, Steven N’Zonzi tried to a flick a pass back to Ben Yedder, but Lucas Hernandez and Vallejo bumped into each other. The resulting rebound was easily played to a completely unmarked Layun, who made no mistake from 15 yards.
Today’s performance was poor and a reflection of just how abject Real have been defensively throughout the season. Ramos’ own goal just summed up the catastrophic night.
#2 Ramos should have shared penalty duties with Benzema
Given his chequered record from the spot, it would’ve been wise of Sergio Ramos to let one of the forwards, particularly Karim Benzema, got at least one of their opportunities from twelve yards.
He meekly squandered the first chance from the spot when he blasted into the underside of the bar, which eventually came back to bite the visitors.
Had he buried it like he did the second one, the Merengues could’ve walked away with a point at least. Being the captain of the side, he has the right to decide in such situations. And it would’ve been more discerning of him had he let the Frenchman take the penalty.
In the 3-0 victory to Las Palmas, Real Madrid were similar beneficiaries of two penalties. But Benzema and Bale shared it by taking one each, and both nonchalantly struck the onion bag. Whilst the Welshman was absent due to a suspension today, Benzema was on the pitch – so Ramos could have followed suit from the events in Gran Canaria.
#3 Awful scarcity of attacking flair
This is more of a failure than a wrong, but there were many indecisions and incorrect manner of attempts that can be aptly adjudged as such. Real Madrid were regularly struggling to create something meaningful going forward, but were also guilty of wasting the chances they fashioned so laboriously.
Benzema was completely unmarked and just inches away from the net. Yet, he scuppered a gilt-edged opportunity deep into the match when he lifted his shot well over the bar while the easiest thing in the world was to bury it.
Many chances stemmed from the flanks as usual, but it hardly found the right man to head it home, barring the one from which Borja Mayoral pulled one back. But Mayoral – alongside Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio – were found trying aimlessly from difficult angles, where they could have found a workaround with short incisive passes instead.
After displays like this in the final third, they further support the claims that without Cristiano Ronaldo spearheading their attack, Real are a mess going forward.