It was Real Madrid’s shot to avenge a painful tournament opener in Paris 70 days ago. On a brisk and damp evening in a nearly full Santiago Bernabéu, Real Madrid was 11 minutes away from a great quality win when two-time defending French champions Paris Saint-Germain stung twice within two minutes to grab a tie and win Group A. Madridistas, especially in North Carolina, applauded the team’s tremendous effort despite the disappointing score line.
Just over 4,000 miles to the west of Chamartín, a score of Peña Madridista Charlotte Members gathered to watch the Kings of Europe at Dilworth Grille in the largest city of the Old North State. Ever since their founding over a year ago, this international Peña has traveled more miles to support the team than the length of the Mississippi River. Led by their Chairman Rodolfo Herrera, Madridismo has grown steadily in a state dominated by college basketball and NASCAR. Tuesday was even more special because the Peña not only gathered in Charlotte but also had two Members present with the enthusiastic Grada Fans section behind the Fondo Sur net!
Even though Real Madrid did not grab three points, the image displayed was something Madridistas yearned for some time against an elite rival. “We played well and deserved the win,” says Rodolfo Herrera I really liked the team’s attitude, wanting to attack with good order and possession.” After seeing Real Madrid secure their 23rd straight Champions League Round-of-16 appearance, Herrera stands by our Manager: “We need to let Zizou do his work and maintain his idea. The team is on a good path and better things will come for us in Champions (League)!” Fellow Board Member Ivan Burgos highlighted Karim Benzema’s continued brilliance, “Benzema was the best Madrid player. As always he knew when to share the ball with his teammates and be in the perfect spot to score.” Karim Benzema scored twice to bring his season total to 14.
Besides the upward sentiment inside Madridismo circles, the media is also turning a corner on Real Madrid. Andres Cordero, who is a play-by-play announcer for beIN Sports for the past seven years, recognizes the current high level: “This was Madrid’s best performance in eight months since Zidane’s return,” Cordero says. “They’ll concede some chances, but they’ll create more.” Cordero went further to spotlight key players: “Isco played his best game in recent memory. Toni Kroos was nearly flawless and Valverde continued to show why he’s virtually indispensable.” Now that Real Madrid will open the Round-of-16 on the road, Cordero points out an unsettling reality: “The challenge is repeating this kind of performance away from the Bernabéu. With the exception of Celta in Balaídos and Eibar at Ipurua, there haven’t been any overwhelming positive results away from home.”
There is no doubt Real Madrid is breaming with confidence and earning solid results ever since the flat-footed loss in Mallorca last month. Tuesday’s draw showed Europe that Real Madrid is not to be taken lightly. Even in the final minute, the right post denied a beautiful free kick game-winner by Welsh forward Gareth Bale. If that ball had gone in, the un-silent minority’s jeering from a media-driven controversy over a Euro 2020 qualifying flag celebration would have gone away. Nevertheless, the Road to Istanbul is painted white.
Christian Paredes (@Xian_D_Paredes) is a Founding Member and former Chairman (2012-2016) of La Peña Madridista Sur de California (@RmSurCalifornia)