It was yet another comeback for Real Madrid, this time in LaLiga Santander as the league leaders fought back to win 3-2 at Sevilla. The second-half goals from Rodrygo, Nacho and Karim Benzema earned three huge points that pull Los Blancos even closer to the objective of winning the title. The wild night in Seville answered some of the pre-match doubts we had, while it also conjured up some new talking points. All of those are discussed right here.
1. Could Real Madrid do what no other team in Spain had managed?
For weeks we had known that this would be one of the highest hurdles remaining for Real Madrid in the LaLiga Santander title race, with Sevilla in the championship battle themselves and with the Andalusians having yet to lose a single home game this league season. They came into this one as the only side in the division with zero home defeats, so could Real Madrid achieve what nobody else had yet been able to do at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán? In the 25th minute, it really didn’t look like it, after the early Ivan Rakitić and Erik Lamela goals. But, Real Madrid have a special comeback spirit this season and they turned it around, with Benzema scoring the winning goal in stoppage time and with the players and coaching staff celebrating like the title had been secured. Because, let’s be realistic here, it virtually has.
2. Kroos or Camavinga to replace Casemiro?
There was no Casemiro for this game due to a yellow card accumulation suspension and he himself lamented the fact that he was going to have to miss such an important game. With no like-for-like replacement, how, then, was Ancelotti going to cover for the Brazilian in this one? Well, even once the line-up was announced we still weren’t quite sure if it’d be Toni Kroos or Eduardo Camavinga occupying the central holding midfielder role. Ultimately, it was Kroos who took on that responsibility on this occasion and there were many issues with it. But, there have been issues too when Camavinga has occupied that role. Ultimately, Real Madrid need to find a proper Casemiro replacement to add to the squad, which has been obvious for a while. In the meantime, one of Kroos or Camavinga will have to moonlight in the No.6 role. And it’s still not clear which of those options is the best of a bad situation.
3. Who’d play at left-back?
Another question mark that wasn’t fully resolved even with the publication of the line-up was that of left-back. With both Ferland Mendy and Marcelo out, Ancelotti named two right-backs in Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vázquez, but it wasn’t clear if one of them would occupy the left side of defence or if Carvajal would play centre-back again to allow Alaba to shift to left-back. In the end, it was the former as Carvajal started at left-back. And, he actually did very well. In addition to his two assists – the first ever time he has provided multiple assists in a LaLiga Santander game – he was solid enough in defence, with most of Real Madrid’s problems actually coming down the opposite flank. It’s a headscratcher how Carvajal has done better at centre-back and at left-back in the past week than he had been doing at right-back.
2 - Daniel Carvajal has provided two assists in the same @LaLigaEN game for @realmadriden for the first time in his entire career in the competition (220 appearances). Dagger. pic.twitter.com/Ku0pOuZgPD— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 17, 2022
1. What on earth was going on with the refereeing?
Guillermo Cuadra Fernández achieved the impossible on Sunday night. The referee was so poor that the game actually finished with both the Sevilla and Real Madrid fanbases furious with his performance. There were four major decisions in the game and, while some were subjective, Cuadra Fernández might have gotten them all incorrect. There was a handball penalty that should have been given against Diego Carlos, Eduardo Camavinga should have been shown a second yellow card, Vinícius’ goal should have stood and there was a foul by Dani Carvajal on Oliver Torres ahead of the Nacho goal. All four decisions he made were arguably wrong, with two going against the home side and two against the away side. Of course, refereeing is difficult, but to go to the VAR monitor, for example, and still not give the Vinícius goal is beyond all comprehension. There were even some insignificant but odd errors, like Sevilla being allowed to take a freekick for a Real Madrid offside in the opposite half of the pitch. We’ll surely not be seeing Cuadra Fernández in charge of any high-profile game for a while.
2. Is Rodrygo better as a substitute than as a starter?
Having come off the bench to score against Chelsea and now against Sevilla, Ancelotti was asked in his post-match press conference if Rodrygo might be better as a super sub than as a starter. He dismissed that suggestion for the long-term, while admitting that the current numbers prove this might be the case. As the coach replied: “I suppose that’s what the stats say. But, he’s also going to be a great starter. It’s similar to Camavinga, but both of them can make a difference from the start as well as off the bench.”
3. Yellow, substitution, goal. Has a player ever done what Nacho did?
In the 77th minute of the game, Nacho was booked for protesting the Vinícius disallowed goal while still on the bench. In the 81st minute, he was substituted on for Lucas Vázquez. Then, in the 83rd minute, the Spaniard scored the equalising goal. They surely don’t follow stats for this sort of thing, but Nacho might have just become the first ever Real Madrid player to be substituted on while already booked and to go on to score a goal. It was just a weird kind of night at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán.