Their solid and convincing early minutes and the two goals they scored in the first half seemed to indicate that Los Blancos would not suffer to get a victory at Balaídos, but their fatigue after last Wednesday's game against PSG showed up and Celta cut down the gap with a stunning goal by Nolito, who put the ball in the only place Navas couldn't reach. Real Madrid suffered until the very end, but Marcelo managed to score the final goal in the last action of the game.
Celta: Sergio; Hugo Mallo, Cabral, Gómez, Jonny; Augusto Fernández, Wass (Radoja, 66'); Pablo (Planas, 80'), Orellana (Guidetti, 80'), Nolito; Aspas.
Real Madrid: Navas; Danilo, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Modric (Nacho, 79'), Kroos; Lucas Vázquez (Isco, 61'), Jesé (Cheryshev, 69'), Ronaldo.
The first half
Seeing how the game started, it was clear that Benítez had done his homework in the last couple of days and had been able to teach his men what a tough rival Celta could be. The surprising decision of leaving Isco on the bench served him to configure and robust 4-1-4-1 with the speedsters Jesé and Vázquez through the wings and the Modric-Kroos duo featuring as attacking midfielders knowing that Casemiro would cover their backs. Real Madrid controlled the ball and their pressure was good enough to make it impossible for the sky blues to counterattack.
Soon enough, after having managed to get a couple corner kicks, the first goal arrived. The white pressure made Celta's midfielders miss a pass in the midfield and Real Madrid counterattacked fiercely. Lucas Vázquez received the ball on the left wing and crossed it to Ronaldo, who let it run past one of Celta's centerbacks to shoot from the right spot and inaugurate the scoreboard.
Unlike it has happened in some of Real Madrid's games this season, Los Blancos did not relax, but their rival today was terrific and fought back. Orellana, who was their best player in the first half, knew he could do nothing from the wing and ran to the middle, where he partnered with Hernández to beat Casemiro's defence, who did a great job again today. A long shot first and a header were his attempts to beat Keylor, but the Costa Rican showed, once again, that he is not going to let any ordinary shot in.
And just when it seemed that if Celta kept pushing a little more they might be able to equalize, another counterattack by Los Blancos cut their hopes. After a good combination in the left side of the field that made all of Celta's defenders come to that sector, Jesé found Danilo running wild through the right towards the box. The Brazilian, who looked as if he was wearing the #9 on his back, scored his first goal for Los Blancos. It was the 23rd minute and the game seemed decided.
This time, Los Blancos retreated and decided to sit back and wait for a chance to counterattack, and this encouraged their rivals. Real Madrid was not confortable without the ball and the defence started to look bad, but Navas was there again to save his partners with two memorable saves.
The second half
After the break, Los Blancos tried to get the ball once again to score the third goal and close the game for good. Vázquez and Ronaldo had good chances, but their final touch was not precise enough. But that wasn't really a problem, as Celta looked much poorer than in the first half, so it didn't seem that they might be able to score two goals, and this got even worse for them when Cabral was sent out after getting a second yellow card for complaining to the referee.
But instead of making them give up, the red card stimulated Celta. Or maybe it was just Nolito, who had seemed out of the game in the first half but decided to make an appearance around the sixtieth minute. He started to ask for the ball over and over again, and Danilo could not follow him. Isco and Ronaldo had really good chances to get the third goal, but Nolito was on fire. A fantastic Navas and Marcelo stopped him twice, but in the third chance he got, he put the ball in the top right corner of Real Madrid's goal, where no goalkeeper could have blocked it. It was the eighty-fifth minute, and Los Blancos were going to suffer.
Just a minute later, Guidetti had a good chance in Real Madrid's box, but his shot went wide by centimeters. The sky blues had a couple corner kicks in the extra time, and Ronaldo missed a very good chance to score in the ninety-third minute, and finally it was Marcelo, in the last action of the game, who put the definitive 1-3 in the scoreboard. Los Blancos had managed to resist and got three crucial points out of a stadium where Barcelona was thrashed a few weeks ago. Real Madrid sits alone on top of the table at least until tomorrow, when Barça will need to beat Eibar in the Camp Nou in order to tie in the leadership.