Real Madrid are nearly to the finish line. In the final match of the season at the Santiago Bernabeu, Los Blancos overcame a nervy first hour to win by a deceiving scoreline. The win puts Madrid on the brink of its first League title since 2012, and its second in 9 seasons.
Real Madrid's XI: Keylor, Danilo, Varane, Ramos, Nacho, Kovacic, Kroos, Asensio, James, Ronaldo, Morata.— Lucas Navarrete (@LucasNavarreteM) May 14, 2017
Real Madrid decided to rotate from its match midweek with Atletico, as Zidane opted to rest Marcelo, Modric, Isco, Casemiro, and Benzema.
The start to the match was hectic, as Sevilla looked dangerous in possession while Madrid looked dangerous on the counter. One of these counters led to Ronaldo audaciously attempting a bicycle kick, but he was judged to be offside.
Madrid’s next big chance came just minutes later, after a brilliant pass from Toni Kroos found the feet of Alvaro Morata. The Spanish striker ended up taking too long to make a move, and Sergio Rico recovered in time to prevent any further damage.
The opener came off from a rarely seen moment. Marco Asensio drew a free kick, but while Sevilla stood by and watched, Nacho stepped up and scored an indirect free kick goal. Sevilla’s players were furious, but what Nacho did was perfectly legal. Ultimately, the goal stood, and had Madrid drawn first blood.
1 - Nacho Fernandez has scored his first direct free-kick goal with his very first attempt for Real Madrid (all competitions). Roguery. pic.twitter.com/0TVAFsryFG— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 14, 2017
The game remained open, and right before the 20 minute mark, Jovetic struck the post on a brilliant attempt that had beaten Keylor Navas. Two minutes later, Sevilla threatened yet again, and the Costa Rican goalkeeper was forced into a kick save. Sevilla were starting to put their stamp on the match, and Madrid looked as if they would concede the equalizer sooner rather than later.
But then less than a minute later, Marco Asensio stripped the ball off a Sevilla midfielder and started a deadly counter attack. A few passes between Ronaldo and Asensio culminated with a blocked James Rodriguez shot that fell perfectly to Ronaldo on the rebound. Just like that Real Madrid had a 2 goal cushion, even if they did not necessarily deserve it. The goal was particularly meaningful for Cristiano Ronaldo, as it was his 400th goal in a Real Madrid shirt.
Congrats @Cristiano! pic.twitter.com/B5DUNLksvx— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 14, 2017
Sevilla did not rollover after conceding again though, and right after the half-hour mark created 2 massive chances in the span of just 30 seconds. The first came from Joaquin Correa, who moronically chose to have a go himself despite having two players unmarked around the penalty spot. The second came from Jovetic, who caught Keylor Navas in no man’s land on a chip, but was unlucky to hit the crossbar yet again.
The last chance of the half fell to Jovetic yet again, who proved to be a thorn in Madrid’s side all day long. After being played through on goal, the Montenegrin was one on one with Navas, but the goalkeeper stood firm, and somehow preserved Real’s two goal lead going into half.
Sevilla’s momentum from the first 45 minutes carried over to the second, as the visitors pulled one back after a great team move. A 20 yard Jovetic shot cut the deficit in half and the game was back on.
Since joining Sevilla, 50% of Stevan Jovetic's goals have come against Real Madrid.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 14, 2017
12th January ⚽
15th January ⚽
14th May ⚽ pic.twitter.com/KTOsx9G8py
The match remained wide open, and because of that Real Madrid were playing with fire. Then Madrid made two substitutions: Lucas Vazquez for Alvaro Morata, and Casemiro for James Rodriguez. The results of these two changes were immediately evident. The match was played at a friendlier pace, and Madrid took full control. Their pressing structure was much more efficient, and the defensive gaps that plagued them in first hour disappeared.
With the Bernabeu getting antsy, one of the many great attacking moves of the evening culminated in Kroos finding Ronaldo, who followed up the pass with a world class finish. The Portuguese gave Los Blancos an insurmountable lead with his “weaker foot”, and Madrid faithful everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.
Just the casual 401 goals in eight years for Ronaldo at Real Madrid. Absolute joke. Sensational goal scorer.— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) May 14, 2017
But the scoring at the capital was not yet done, because after a sensational spell of possession, Toni Kroos finished wonderfully into the bottom corner to make it 4-1.
Real Madrid have now set an all-time European club record for consecutive matches scored in. Los Blancos have surpassed Bayern Munich’s record of 61 matches, and have scored in every single match this season. The last team to keep Real from hitting the back of the net was Manchester City (seriously) during last season’s Champions League semi-final.
Sadly, this was likely James Rodriguez’ final match for Los Blancos. The Colombian has been linked with a move away from the club for quite some time, and due to his lack of playing time at the club it would be surprising to see him stay another season. It was sad to see such a lovable player leave the pitch the way he did. What’s even sadder though, is that even though people will look for a scapegoat, his situation isn’t anyone’s fault. A managerial change led to a different formation, and unfortunately made it impossible for James to consistently play in his preferred position. I wrote about this here. This does not mean he was wasted, just no longer a fit in a team that underwent a massive transition.
VIDEO: James Rodriguez saying farewell to Real Madrid fans?pic.twitter.com/z5ihQ4j5QM— RMadridHome (@RMadridHome_) May 15, 2017
All Madrid need to do now is collect 4 points from their final 2 matches and they will be crowned champions of Spain. This task, however, becomes considerably more difficult when the two opponents remaining are taken into account. First up is away to Celta Vigo, a match that was supposed to take place 2 months ago. Celta knocked Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey earlier this season, and nearly took points off Real on the second matchday of the season. Finally, Madrid must go to Malaga, who are unbeaten in their last five, and seem to have hit form at the worst time. Neither match will be easy, but with the league title as motivation, Los Blancos will fight until the end.