Santiago Bernabeu welcomed the return of Eden Hazard just in time before the knockout stages of UEFA Champions League and it was the roster where Real Madrid were on course for a sixth successive LaLiga win and with that take the upper hand against arch-rivals Barcelona in the points table. But in the end, the low-ranked Celta Vigo clipped the wings of Los Blancos to silence Bernabeu.

Celta Vigo are not known to be a great defensive side, but when they all come together to block the spaces, they transform into an unbreakable wall – hard to breach, tough to overcome.

In the first-half, Celta covered all the defensive channels – even when Real Madrid made the off-ball runs and passes, Celta halted them. Any time Gareth Bale or Eden Hazard had the ball on the flanks and thought about outweighing their marker, multiple bodies covered them. Whenever the Real front-three had a sniff on goal, their shot was blocked. Celta resisted with their life in the first 45 minutes.

While Real concentrated more on breaching the Celta wall, their backline fell asleep. They allowed Aspas to sneak in and provide the space to provide a nice through ball to Smolov, who was kept onside by Raphael Varane. The Los Blancos were one goal down and Zidane was needed to change his style, but it did not change.

Zidane’s men put in 26 crosses — the most of any half this season for the team. Plenty of those crosses were hit into a heavily-marked Benzema. Bale and Valverde moved into center in plenty but had their passing lane blocked. Even when Hazard would go into a line-breaking mode (and he did, several times), Celta closed the inside well.

The best option, in such situations, would have been the intent to attempt the long balls more often and shoot from a long-range like the Brazilians of the old days used to try when the opposition attempted to block their channels. Real Madrid do have players to do such.

Hazard kept on knocking from the left flank, linked up well with Marcelo, who cut back to discover Toni Kroos at the top of the box. 13 minutes later, Eden Hazard earned a penalty — doing really well to extend himself to get to the ball just as Ruben Blanco was about to swipe at the ball.

Real were cruising until the 85th minute when Denis Suarez’s sublime pass Santi Mina scored a late equalizer to leave Real Madrid just one point clear of Barcelona at the top.

The defence of Real Madrid should be blamed who fell asleep yet again – substitute Ferland Mendy kept Mina onside for the equalizer. Mina made a run down the middle that wasn’t picked up in time and it took Carvajal sprinting over to try to at least put a body on him.


It was not a good performance by the Los Blancos whereas the opportunity was there to secure the top spot.

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