Real Madrid had a very rough first half vs Almeria, conceding two goals in 45 minutes while generating basically zero chances against the 20th-placed team in La Liga — while also having the majority of their starters on the pitch. But, in typical Real Madrid fashion, they turned things around and won the game 3-2 courtesy of an amazing Dani Carvajal game-winner in the 100th minute of the game. Jude Bellingham opened the scoring for Real Madrid and Vinicius Jr scored the equalizer, as Real Madrid clinched three points to stay close to Girona, who have played a game more than Los Blancos.
Let’s break this down.
About Vinicius Jr’s equaliser...
Let’s address the elephant in the room straight away. In the second half, Vinicius Jr scored a goal from his shoulder, which was ruled out for handball but then reversed due to VAR because the referee saw the replays and came to the conclusion that it, in fact, hit his shoulder.
Barcelona fans (and also their head coach for some reason) since then have started victimizing themselves, talking about the difficulties of winning the league with “all this” happening, conveniently avoiding the fact that their team is the one that has been formally accused of bribing referees.
Let me just give my two cents on the matter: In the moment it was a controversial decision. In my opinion, the ball’s trajectory cannot be that fast towards goal if it solely touches Vini’s bicep, so it had to be his shoulder. From one angle, it looks like it touches a bit of his bicep and a bit of his shoulder; from the other angles, it seems to be just the shoulder. Surely, if it were an easier decision than what it was made out to be, the referee would’ve got it right. The hysteria all across Twitter has been as if Vini volley-balled it with his forearms into the goal. That wasn’t the case. The referee saw it to be a shoulder, and he gave it as such.
Maybe another referee would’ve given it a handball. It was so 50-50, you really can’t choose between one or the other — but the new replays seem pretty clear that the goal was correctly allowed.
But, if it’s Real Madrid, then, of course, you get points for being cool rooting against them.
Oh, and by the way, why is everyone talking about how Real Madrid were “aided” by the VAR three times? OK, I get it with the Vini one; it’s the toughest decision out of the three. But the only reason Real were “aided” by the VAR on the other two decisions is because they were the correct decisions, but they weren’t given as such initially. Just because multiple calls have gone Real Madrid’s way does not mean they can’t all be correct. The penalty was 100% a penalty. There was no foul in the buildup, and it touched the arm of an Almeria defender. The other goal was rightfully disallowed because someone slapped Jude Bellingham in the face. Just because VAR intervened three times does not mean Real Madrid wrongfully benefitted from all of those decisions.
We need to have a conversation about Nacho
I love Nacho. He’s the captain of Real Madrid, he knows the ins and outs of the club, he’s been here for so long and it’s wonderful to have a selfless guy like him in the locker room. There’s just one thing: He’s having, maybe, his worst season as a footballer.
Nacho is a leader, but for a centre-back to be subbed off at half-time, you’ve got to be in pretty bad form. Nacho was at fault for both goals Real Madrid conceded, and, generally speaking, did not look comfortable on the pitch each time Almeria came close to scoring in the first half. And it is not even just this game; he’s been off all season. He’s made costly mistakes in the past, and even though he has not played much, he has missed more time because of suspension than any other player on the team.
I really hope it is just a slump, which it very well could be. But the current slump has lasted for more than half a season, and that is a bit worrying. If it is a trend to follow, then Real Madrid may regret their decision to not sign a centre-back — even on loan — in January. I’ve been an advocate of it, and that’s less about Nacho and more about general depth. But Nacho being a lesser version of his footballing self definitely helps back my claim, unfortunately.
Maybe Nacho needs to take gluten out of his diet.
The positives — plenty of them
This article I’ve written may seem like one I’d write after a loss, judging by the two points above. But, no, this was a win, and even though there was a really bad first half, there were positives to derive from the game.
One positive that everyone knows (just to get it out of the way because it is so obvious): Jude Bellingham is good at football. In fact, he might just be the second coming of Zinedine Zidane. Seriously, the way he is playing, Bellingham actually looks like the closest thing to modern-day Zidane we’ve probably ever seen. A goal and an awesome assist — and an almost-bicycle kick goal — was part of yet another impressive game from the Englishman. Every game Jude Bellingham plays makes me think it’s the best one he’s played yet.
Another positive, is the character that this team has. To launch yet another comeback, after how terrible the first half was, is no easy feat. Dani Carvajal looks like a player reborn, and he proved it yet again by scoring the winner after a very good second half from the right-back. Carvajal this season has truly been a blessing. His good form raises both the floor and the ceiling of the team, and provides Carlo Ancelotti with some much-needed fluidity and movement on the right flank — the main reason why the Spaniard was able to score in the first place.
God bless the team of remontadas!