Jose Mourinho’s gamble to bench Iker Casillas for the second straight game backfired in spectacular fashion in Real Madrid's win against Real Sociedad.
Mourinho only has Cristiano Ronaldo to thank after his majestic display saved what could have been a disastrous game for the coach.
Real Madrid had started strongly, with Benzema scoring within two minutes of kick-off.
However, just nine minutes into the game, Antonio Adan, Casillas’ replacement, misplaced a pass and handed the ball straight to Carlos Vela. The winger skipped past Carvalho and ran into the penalty box. Adan came charging off his line and was unable to touch the ball before Vela deftly flicked it to his right, and the young goalkeeper went crashing through the winger's legs.
The referee instantly pointed to the penalty stop and pulled out a red card, cutting Adan’s participation in the game to just under 10 minutes. Casillas has only received two red cards in the league in the 13 seasons he has been with Real Madrid.
Spain's No. 1 quickly replaced Jose Callejon amidst chants of “Iker, Iker” flooding down from the stands of the Bernabeu. Casillas wasn’t able to stop the penalty and Xabi Prieto scored his first goal of the afternoon.
That was just the start of a rollercoaster match that would have a bit of everything, including another red card and a total of seven goals.
Khedira scored with a sweet back heel in the 35th minute, only for Madrid to be pulled back again by Xabi Prieto’s second goal.
The second half was Cristiano Ronaldo’s.
The Portuguese striker took the match by the scruff of its neck and produced a match-winning performance. His first goal came in the 68th minute from a smart finish at the end of a quick counter. His second came just two minutes later from a free kick from the left of Raul Bravo’s goal that thundered off the crossbar and in.
Xabi Prieto got his hat-trick goal in the 76th minute to add some extra tension to the match. At that point, Real Sociedad were thankful to still be in the game after Ronaldo had several chances to complete his hat trick.
However, Estrada’s sending-off for a second yellow card in the 80th minute took some of the fight out of Real Sociedad and the scoreline remained 4-3 for Madrid.
Adan will be suspended for the next La Liga game, but he will be available to play in the mid-week fixture against Celta. The Casillas-Adan debate doesn’t seem likely to go away anytime soon, though.
Another curious image this emotional match left us was that of Casillas refusing to take the captain’s armband from Ronaldo when he came on. This refusal could easily be interpreted as a message to his coach that he is not happy with being just a backup option.