iHasta el final, Vamos Real!
Here are a few game notes from Real Madrid's Champions League semi-final triumph:
- Most of the concerns pre-game surrounded Casemiro's absence, and how Real Madrid will cope without the stability he brings. Turns out, as the game unfolded, Casemiro's absence was just fine. Toni Kroos' positioning was tremendous all game, and Isco acted as an extra outlet who could hold onto the ball and distribute. De facto, given that City weren't threatening Real Madrid's midfield, Isco's presence benefited all three of the midfield trio, enabling them to open the play even when in tight channels.
- Pepe was immense all game as he was in the first leg - snuffing out attacks with his interceptions and aerial dominance. Sergio Ramos not far behind.
- Gareth Bale, the Welsh Samurai, was clutch again.
- The overlapping runs from the full-backs caused Manchester City all kinds of problems, and I only wish Real Madrid could take advantage of it more - particularly on the right side, where Clichy looked completely incapable of chasing Dani Carvajal's dissecting runs. Those runs, by the way, from Marcelo and Carvajal, added extra targets for Modric, Kroos, and Isco to hit when the offense seemed stagnant.
- Tough reaction to write. The more the game progressed, the more cautious Real Madrid became - the ever-growing concern of conceding against City gradually defanged Zidane's attack. It may have been the right call, to take the foot off the pedal, but not grabbing the second goal made for a super-nervy ending.
- Hey, Real Madrid is playing in the Champions League final for the second time in three seasons - on the tail-end of a season which looked certain for disaster in January. Let's enjoy this!