Real Madrid vs. Celta Vigo: 6 Things We Learned from Blancos' First Win of 2014
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid started 2014 how they ended 2013: with three points.
Celta Vigo were the visitors on Spain’s Three Kings Day in a match which Los Blancos couldn’t afford to drop points in given the gap between themselves and Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
It wasn’t easy though.
The visitors were resilient, arguably having the best chances through their lone striker Charles before Karim Benzema eventually opened the scoring half way through the second period.
Jese Rodriguez, fresh from the substitutes’ bench, sent a ball across goal which the Frenchman deflected beyond Yoel into the corner of the goal.
With Celta’s resilience broke, Madrid, and Cristiano Ronaldo particularly, took the chance to add a gloss to the score line as they eventually ran out 3-0 victors.
Here are the talking points from Monday night’s La Liga clash.
Ronaldo Up and Running for 2014
Cristiano Ronaldo’s first shot was deflected wide for a corner after just five minutes, then, after 27 minutes, he was well marshaled by the Celta Vigo defence after Angel di Maria fed him a clever ball.
Apart from that it didn’t look like being his night—or indeed Madrid’s for long periods of the game.
However he still managed to end the match with seven shots on goal (h/t whoscored.com), and that’s the thing with Los Blancos’ No. 7: he’s always, always got a goal in him.
When his goal did eventually arrive it wasn’t particularly pretty as he bundled in Carvajal’s cross, but it was vital in securing the three points for Madrid and got him up and running as far as the new calendar year is concerned.
Gareth Bale then set him for for a second goal in stoppage time.
They were his 28th and 29th goals of the season and, while he keeps scoring, Carlo Ancelotti’s side should remain within striking distance of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Story of Ancelotti's Subs
Carlo Ancelotti will have been delighted with the impact two of his substitutes had on the win against Celta Vigo.
Jese Rodriguez replaced Isco just after the hour and immediately looked to add another dimension to Real Madrid’s play, causing problems with his pace and determination.
And it was the 20-year-old, who settled on the left of Madrid’s forward line, that set up Karim Benzema to eventually put Los Blancos ahead in the second half.
Meanwhile Gareth Bale, who has been struggling with a calf injury, was being equally as menacing on the right hand side.
While the Welshman wasn’t quite at the levels he was beginning to find after a recent run in the side, Madrid fans will have been happy to see him back on the pitch and he set up Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal in added on time.
Madrid’s Shaky Back Line
It seems strange to be talking about weaknesses in defence after a clean sheet and a 3-0 win, but score lines can occasionally be slightly deceiving.
For large parts of the match at the Bernabeu on Monday night, Celta Vigo were the team who posed the biggest attacking threat.
Charles twice sprung the offside trap to latch on to through balls—unfortunately for Celta’s forward, Diego Lopez proved a more than equal opponent.
Elsewhere Rafinha was finding space far too easy to come by in the attacking third, while several corners and set plays in the first half left Madrid scrambling like a mid-table team rather than a title challenger.
Carlo Ancelotti will certainly be aware of where his side needs to improve.
Can Celta’s Young Guns Keep Them Up?
In a first half which threw up little in the way of action, Rafinha—who is on loan at Celta Vigo from Barcelona—was the pick of the 22 players on the pitch.
Then in the second half, just before Karim Benzema opened the scoring, the creative midfielder’s pass sent Charles clean through for a golden opportunity which the Celta forward passed up.
If the 20-year-old can keep up that sort of creativity though, chances are results will eventually come for Luis Enrique’s side against the teams surrounding them in the bottom half of La Liga.
Meanwhile Celta’s back four stood strong against Cristiano Ronaldo and his chums for almost 70 minutes.
What’s most impressive about that is the fact their back four consisted mainly of youngsters. Hugo Mallo (22) and Jonny (19) were the full-backs, while David Costas (18) played at centre-back—even Yoel (25) in the sticks is a good age for a ‘keeper.
Even as they were chasing the game it was 18-year-old Santi Mina who they turned to.
Will Alonso's Injury Inflict Further Doubts?
With Xabi Alonso’s contract running down at Real Madrid, the last few days have seen speculation over why he has not yet committed to a new deal at the Bernabeu.
Speaking to the radio show 'El Partido de las 12' on 'Cope' (h/t Marca), Mikel Arteta suggested any delay over Alonso signing a new deal could be down to health issues weighing on the player’s mind:
"I've known him since I was little. If he has any doubts, it'll be down to his health."
Alonso himself also spoke to Marca recently about the demands of playing for a club who receive so much attention from the public:
“The pressure, the demands and the responsibility are far greater here. You have to be very conscious of all this to live up to expectations and be liked by the Bernabeu faithful.”
Against Celta Vigo he had to be withdrawn at half-time as he was injured and, even if it’s nothing serious, you have to wonder if it will add to any doubts he may, or may not, be having about renewing in the Spanish capital.
Madridstas Never Forget
It might be over 15 years since Luis Enrique ditched Real Madrid for Barcelona, but the fans that line the Bernabeu haven’t forgot.
Luis Enrique's name gets the expected loud boos and whistles as read out pre-game...— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) January 6, 2014
As the Celta Vigo managers name was read out, a chorus of whistle and boos sounded out around Los Blancos’ stadium—welcome back Luis.
Enrique scored for Barcelona in Clasico matches, going onto manage the Catalan club’s B team before taking the reins at Italian side Roma.
So even if he ends up doing an impressive job in Galicia—and there were glimpses on Monday night to suggest he will—it seems unlikely he’ll be welcomed back as a future Real Madrid manager.