It is very hard to escape the reality, Madridistas. While the last three positive results in La Liga healed wounds from Paris; Club Brugge put Real Madrid’s back against the wall with a bombastic 2 - 2 tie in the Santiago Bernabéu. With one lonely point after two games, the team occupies the last place in the group. This is the slowest start for the Real Madrid in the Champions League era. How did it come to this?
Much to the dismay of Madridismo, the team repeated the same lackadaisical start as it did in Paris. There was too much space between the lines, passes were easily intercepted, careless possessions resulted in turnovers, and offensive impotency made Brugge’s defense appear as an impossible rubix cube. The field was tilted against Real Madrid with every offensive possession mirroring a climb up Mount Everest. On the other hand, Brugge Manager Philippe Clement took a page off José Mourinho’s playbook of well-organized counterattacks. From a distance it seemed the Belgians’ one-touch passing was as if the ball hit fixed bumpers down a pinball machine. After Nigerian forward Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis scored his second after 39 minutes, the nightmare was on.
The second half was a whirlwind fuelled by desperation. Real Madrid took command with 72% possession and Brugge aimed to hold the lead for three massive points. The desperation seeped from the stands into the players as the speed and intensity were ratcheted up, especially after Sergio Ramos’s goal in the 55th minute. Subs Marcelo and Vinicius Jr brought much-needed flank support to a stale offense. Eden Hazard was ineffective once again as the Brugge back line shadowed his every step. Each wave almost always brought a corner kick opportunity. On one of the 13 corner kicks, Casemiro headed in the equalizer with five minutes left. That spirit of the late Real Madrid forward Juanito (1954-1992) consumed the stands and each player in white. Even though the final minutes invited the possibility of a heroic comeback, the final whistle blew. The Belgians took one golden point from the temple of world football.
When the game ended, I felt pride for a few seconds then disappointment afterwards. Years prior, the group stage was usually a cake walk. Now for the first time this millennia, our team finds itself in uncharted territory. The knockout stage is no longer a guarantee. The next game at Galatasaray is a must-win. Zidane and co. need to hunker down the week prior to be best prepared for that physical team led by veteran Colombian forward Radamel Falcao supported by an inferno atmosphere. It is outrageous to suggest that the legacies of Zidane and the players on the current roster who brought 17 titles the previous eight seasons will be erased with an early group stage exit. However, if the team does not climb out of the hole in time, this will leave a dark blemish on their careers.
Group A has now become a group of “death”, with all teams having options to advance. On October 22, three points from Turkey is the ONLY option. ¡Hala Madrid y nada más!
Christian Paredes (@Xian_D_Paredes) is a Founding Member and former Chairman (2012-2016) of La Peña Madridista Sur de California (@RmSurCalifornia)