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Immediate Reaction: Celta Vigo 2 - 2 Real Madrid

Gareth Bale brace not enough to mask Real Madrid’s problems at Balaidos

Celta de Vigo v Real Madrid - La Liga Photo by fotopress/Getty Images

Real Madrid drop two points away to Celta (Bale x 2; Wass, Maxi), and continue to dig themselves a La Liga hole. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.

Scattered throughout this disappointing season are little sprinkles of heroism from Gareth Bale. Sparsely available (and hopefully injuries finally behind him), Bale has been a bright spark for Real Madrid this season in limited minutes. He came up with big performances away in Anoeta and Dortmund; and tonight during a time where Real Madrid desperately needed goals, Bale stepped up again with a brace.

Bale did a lot today apart from being an efficient goal-getter. In a game where both he and Ronaldo led the line, Bale brought energy and flair — incisive off-the-ball movement and diligent work defensively. There were even moments where the Welshmen would sprint back to dispossess Celta’s attackers, sling counters, and sprint back up the field to meet a cross on that same sequence.

But extracting many positives from this game is tough. The defense was stretched alive for 90 minutes, and Real Madrid, as they have done often this season, gambled their positional structure when proper coverage didn’t exist. Time and time again Marcelo was alone covering multiple players on his flank. While Achraf had some reasonable coverage from Luka Modric; Marcelo had no such luxury from Toni Kroos, who hedged centrally often and jogged back in transition while Isco was in a different spot on every defensive sequence. That’s a lot of burden for Marcelo — a player already struggling this season and not playing well defensively to begin with. His gambles offensively (which happened often tonight), were punished severely. In Celta’s first goal, he was nowhere to be found on the wing where Daniel Wass found space — and there was no one else there to provide a safety net.

Celta had a lot of incisive moments. Real Madrid’s press generally was broken and inefficient. Couple that with a disorganized defensive scheme, and you’re vulnerable to waves of outnumbered attacks in open space.

Those problems continued into the second half. A Keylor penalty save wasn’t enough to stop Celta from eventually equalizing the match. On Celta’s second goal, Iago Aspas made a near-post run — sucking Varane and Casemiro with him to free up space for Maxi Gomez who Lucas Vazquez failed to track.

The rest of the match had some back-and-forth action from both teams, with Celta looking the more dangerous of the two sides. In many ways, Real Madrid could’ve prevented all this and won three points without suffering as much as they did. On the other hand, they were lucky to escape with a point the way they played. I mentioned it during the preview podcast — these issues of defensive gambles and mental miscues can slide against Las Palmas, but not against a Sisto-Aspas-Maxi trio which has been on fire this season.

More coverage still to come.

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