Thursday, July 7

Madrid, eternal king in a football of emirs


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The coaches were not surprised. They came out with everything: Klopp with Mané of nine and Ancelotti with Valverde, and those positions were important at the beginning.

Valverde was the extreme in the 4-3-3, the interior in the 4-4-2 and at times even the side in a fleeting 5-3-2. His movement throughout the band transformed Madrid and balanced it and he still found the strength to go to the center, behind Benzema. Mané, for his part, demanded Militao’s and Casemiro’s attention. This Madrid first did well, but the great English strikers were learning: if Mané took Casemiro, that gap was free, and Salah burst in, whose band was occupied with winger quality by the very offensive side Alexander-Arnold. For him came the first chance for Liverpool, with a shot by Salah.

The English pressure was a fact and Madrid coped with it with that kind of lack that ends up looking like humility. The good thing was that he avoided the speed of Liverpool, his exhalation: the risk was defending far behind, the duels, the one-on-ones, took place in the area, with extreme danger. That’s where the skills for endurance and removal of the Madrid defenses showed, highly demanded, however, in the 20th minute, in a play by Mané between Militao and Marcelo that Courtois touched and ended up on the post. It was the great occasion of Liverpool, which still came in some more.

Offensively Madrid hardly existed. Almost the entire team was busy making a shell, and his offensive possibilities were long balls to Valverde, who with his big body and his power had to look for life. Vinicius was also there, well guarded by Konaté. But above all it was Valverde, and when he was able to find Vinicius, with a sort of successive double pitch, Madrid arrived for the first time (minute 36).

From the exhaustion, as forced as it was assumed, Madrid was also emerging from Carvajal’s outbursts, grown up against Luis Díaz.

In Madrid’s problems there was a certain normality. The impossibility of doing ‘his football’ was not greater than other European nights, even his agony seemed less. At the end of the first part something happened. Mendy looked for Benzema with his pass, who went to the area, controlled with something similar to aguanís on the right side, cut, thought about it with a feint that left the breath suspended in the stadium and looked for Valverde second, bursting through the center after having tried several times on the outside; he hit the ball, Fabinho also touched it, and the ball reached Benzema to score. The VAR examined it and annulled the goal due to a millimetric offside that was difficult to understand in two aspects: in the quantification of those millimeters and in the invalidation of the play after Fabinho had clearly touched it.

Madrid went without a goal at the break, but already knew that Liverpool were trembling at the back.

Madrid was veteran prudence behind, a trailer called Valverde destined for Vinicius, and the final possibility that Vinicius hooked up with Benzema. Simple, not very sophisticated, but at least it was a plan. In Madrid’s victory over Liverpool in 2021, the two of them had been fundamental. Carvajal’s courage was already there and in the second part Casemiro joined in with some climbs in which he surpassed the midfield as if wanting by all means to tear himself out of the cave.

It was curious: in its non-being, Madrid was more. It was recognizable. He had to notice the English stands, which at the height of 56 wanted to impose themselves with chants. And voila. The aforementioned players, Casemiro, Carvajal, were involved in a play that reached Valverde whose cross shot was finished off by Vinicius for the 0-1. The plan, as it had been outlined, was a goal and before 60, before the usual change was necessary. Valverde’s game was already Madrid’s history and his connection with Vinicius, pointed out all night, confirmed a new generation that asserts itself on the tired, old, expert and wise marble of the previous one.

The management that Ancelotti had left, precisely, was to reinforce or replace those players, because Liverpool was going to respond, it was already responding. Jota substituted a parched Díaz for Carvajal, and Salah tested Courtois’ elasticity, twice.

What Valverde and Vinicius did was, in reality, in their portentous way, delve into the possibilities of Liverpool’s full-backs, delve into their greatest weakness according to a previously indicated criterion.

Casemiro, a rocker, made a rock, touched everything, magnetized everything, and around him, from the rock to the rocky area, the others gathered, with the superiority of Militao right behind him. Casemiro could even score on a set piece after 70 minutes.

Ancelotti did not make changes, so the low block began to touch the ordeal and Courtois had to stretch again with an extraordinary save on Salah. But it was a Monty Python ordeal. Everyone knew that Casemiro, Militao, Alaba and company would end up whistling the ‘Bright Side of the life’ nailed to their crosses.

Vinicius continued to be a threat and Camavinga came out, but there was nothing to overcome. The English call comebacks ‘comeback’. Return. What Madrid does is come back.

They gave five minutes extension. They sang the “You’ll never…”, for trying their magic, but they had nothing to do, and they knew it; and on top of that beautiful anthem the despotic and Iberian “That’s how Madrí wins” prevailed. Which is in its second century.


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