On May 10th 2017, Real Madrid headed into the Vicente Calderon Stadium to play Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals. This was the second leg. They had already won the first leg 3 - 0 thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick.
In the second leg, things were much more difficult. Atletico were aggressive from the start and went up by two goals in the first half.
Here’s a snippet from Kiyan Sobhani’s immediate reaction on Managing Madrid that night:
As expected, the Vicente Calderon was raucous and frenzied for one last time in the Champions League. Atleti were gung-ho from minute one, pushing Real Madrid beyond it’s comfort zone. Their first goal game in the 12th minute — Saul beating Cristiano Ronaldo to a header from a corner, with no one near-post to give Keylor Navas a hand. Five minutes later, Varane clumsily committed a penalty which Greizmann converted.
Until that point, Real Madrid were kind of just treading water. They had no real control over what was happening, bar some occasional counter-attacks which Atletico fended off. In a weird way, Atletico’s second goal ultimately let Real Madrid breathe more than anything. The question was always going to be ‘how long can Atletico sustain this energy?’ The answer, it turns out, was until they scored their second of the night. Simeone receded the line, opting to play the more conservative brand of football Atletico is known for. Had they kept bullying Real Madrid in the final third, it may well be that they score that third goal. But they didn’t, and by retreating, they let Real Madrid grow into the game and dominate possession.
Luka Modric was unbelievable. If ever I was in a situation of complete turmoil, and could draft one player on the planet to calm things and down bring composure in an impossibly chaotic situation, Modric would be the first person I’d draft. His touches, his non-stop motor without the ball to provide outlets and relieve Real Madrid’s backline from a press, his ability to create from deep — everything he did was outrageously good. Tomorrow’s column will be an ode to him.
Of course, what ultimately got Real Madrid in the scoreboard and back in the driver’s seat was a moment of magic from Karim Benzema which ultimately led to an Isco goal:
Real Madrid advanced 4 - 2 on aggregate. Where were you when this happened?