Real Madrid made it through to the next round of the King’s Cup by beating Celta Vigo 4-0 at the Bernabeu. Despite the scoreline, Madrid did have to work hard in the second half after going down to 10 men.
Los Blancos cruised through the first half and Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals, one just two minutes into the match and the other midway through the half, were a fair reflection of their dominance.
Sergio Ramos’ red card in the 73rd minute, just when Celta were growing into the game and Madrid had seemed to step off the gas, added a bit of tension to the match.
Fans were on the edges of their seats almost until the final whistle, before Ronaldo completed his hat-trick in the 87th minute and Sami Khedira swiftly scored Madrid's fourth.
The match left us with a number of interesting points to pick over, from Gonzalo Higuain accumulating more minutes in his return from injury to Angel Di Maria on the bench and Ramos’ hotheadedness.
Here are five of those points.
Cristiano Ronaldo put in a stellar performance for Real Madrid against Celta.
Putting behind the bitter disappointment of finishing second in the Ballon d’Or on Monday, he bounced back and played a crucial part in all of Madrid’s goals, scoring three and assisting Khedira for the fourth.
His first goal, just three minutes into the game, was one of his trademark strikes from outside the box. Picking up the ball after a throw-in from Alvaro Arbeloa on the left side of the pitch, Ronaldo smacked the ball and sent it ripping into the side-netting of Sergio Alvarez’s goal.
His second was a typical No. 9 finish on the end of a ball lobbed in by Modric over the top of the defense, while the third was a lash from his left foot from a quick counter attack. Just two minutes after completing his hat-trick, he played a swift one-two with Khedira to put the German in for Madrid’s fourth.
His hat-trick should have been bagged in the first half had his goal in the 37th minute not been wrongly disallowed.
Ronaldo has started his campaign for the 2013 Ballon d’Or with a bang. That’s now five goals and an assist in 2013.
Luka Modric played his best half yet in a Madrid shirt.
The Croatian was imperious in the first 45 minutes. His first touch of the match, deftly pushing the ball into space, completely wrong-footing Augusto Fernandez and initiating a counterattack, was a sign of the confidence with which he would perform.
In the 24th minute, he lobbed an impeccable ball into Cristiano Ronaldo’s path for the Portuguese to score his second goal of the match. Just a few minutes later, he would put Karim Benzema through only for the Frenchman to be denied by some good goalkeeping from Sergio Alvarez.
In the 37th minute, Modric provided a magnificent headed assist straight into Ronaldo’s path only for the goal to be disallowed by the official on the far side.
The replays showed that the Portuguese was clearly onside, thus being unfairly denied his third goal of the game and denying Modric of his second assist.
Other touches of quality from the Croatian could be appreciated throughout the half. These included a sweet backheel in the 30th minute and a first-time chipped ball into Ozil later in the half.
After the break, Madrid appeared downshift and Modric was less visible. But the first half alone should be a sign that there might be more to come from the former Tottenham player after what has been a slow start to his Madrid career.
After the controversies surrounding Jose Mourinho and Iker Casillas, inevitably the goalkeeper’s performance was going to be under intense scrutiny.
The Madrid faithful gave the keeper their support when his name was announced over the loudspeakers and inversely showed their disapproval when the coach’s name rang.
Casillas had something of a mixed game though. He didn’t have much to do during the early stages thanks to Madrid’s control of the game, but failed to dominate his area as he usually does.
On several occasions in both halves, Casillas came out rather weakly to punch the ball in the air, failing to clear it completely from the danger zone. On one occasion, he even missed the ball completely after a miscommunication with defender Raphael Varane.
However, he could also be considered one of the two players responsible for Madrid being in the next round of the Spanish cup (with Ronaldo, of course). After Ramos’ sending off in the 73rd minute, Casillas made two world-class saves to make sure Celta did not take the game to extra time.
The first was a strong shot from the right at mid-height from Khron-Delhi that stung the keeper’s gloves as he pushed it to the left of his goal for a corner. The second was a powerful shot from Augusto Fernandez that skimmed across the surface of the pitch from an almost identical position.
In Gonzalo Higuain’s second match since returning from injury, the Argentine forward showed that he wants to reclaim his place in the starting XI.
Replacing Benzema in the 65th minute, Higuain arguably did more in the half hour that he played than the Frenchman had done in the entire match. He instantly injected some pace into the Madrid attack at the moment it was starting to stutter.
In the 77th minute, he would receive a ball inside the box: With his back to goal and after wheeling around 180 degrees, he managed to pull off a shot, only for it to be blocked by the Celta defender. The Argentine asked for a penalty, but replays clearly showed that the ball came off the defender’s thigh.
However, this was the first chance that Madrid had had in a while, and it came in a period where Celta were regularly threatening Casillas’ goal.
Ten minutes later, he would make his most notable contribution to the game. Picking up the ball well into his own half, Higuain sped off in a blistering counterattack alongside Ronaldo.
Approaching the box and with three defenders around him, Higuain made the right decision and put in the Portuguese in the left channel with a perfectly weighted ball.
Ronaldo did not waste the opportunity and crushed Celta’s hopes at a moment when they were dominating the game and making their extra man count.
Real Madrid’s ongoing feud with referees has been a trademark since Jose Mourinho took over at the Bernabeu.
The match Wednesday was no different and Mourinho looked extremely irritated against the referee throughout the match.
On one occasion Ronaldo went down near the Celta penalty box and the referee waved play on, dismissing the striker’s appeals for a foul. Mourinho was so incensed he dispatched his rage by picking up one of the match balls and smashing it down the tunnel (watch video here).
The replays seemed to suggest that there was only minimal contact and that the referee had taken the right decision. On another similar occasion, Mourinho himself had to restrain his assistant, Rui Farias, who could clearly be seen shouting abuse at the officials from the bench.
Although they could in no way justify this type of abuse, Madrid did have a few issues to feel aggrieved for.
On two crucial occasions, the referee was let down by his assistants and stopped play for a nonexistent offside offence. In the first passage of play, Ronaldo had already put the ball in the back of the net; in the other, Khedira was in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper.
Although in Khedira’s case, the goalkeeper pulled off a smart save to deny the German. Ronaldo’s goal should have definitely stood and would have sealed the game way before the 87th minute.
However, Madrid can also consider themselves on the lucky side of one decision taken by the referee.
Sergio Ramos’ second yellow should have probably been a straight red. Replays showed that Ramos seemed to intentionally leave his foot up when falling over to stop Augusto Fernandez’s run; he caught Fernandez in the face in what could have clearly been considered violent conduct.