On Sunday evening, things were beginning to look pretty good for Real Madrid’s title aspirations.
At 2-1 down against Valencia later that same night, though, everything wasn’t looking so rosy, but a fantastic late strike from Cristiano Ronaldo rescued a point and carried Madrid into Wednesday night’s match with Real Valladolid still very much in the joust for the championship.
Another late goal in that match at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla provided the battle for the top spot with another twist, though, and this time it wasn’t in Real Madrid’s favour.
Free-scoring Sergio Ramos had scored a free kick in the first half, tallying five goals in his last four appearances for Los Blancos, and Madrid looked set to keep the heat on Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the table.
It was the extension of a stunning run of scoring for Ramos that had started against Osasuna little more than 10 days ago.
He then scored the first two goals as Madrid took Bayern Munich apart at the Allianz Arena last Wednesday, following that brace up with the first equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Valencia at the Bernabeu.
With Ronaldo forced off after eight minutes against Valladolid—Estadio Radio later reported it was purely precautionary, per @realmadridplace—and Gareth Bale not even fit enough to make the squad, Madrid needed someone up to the task in the goal-scoring stakes.
Carlo Ancelotti wasn’t presumably banking on Ramos.
Unfortunately for Madrid, just as it seemed as if the former Sevilla defender’s goal would be enough, they came unstuck.
Humberto Osorio headed home in the 85th minute and, with Karim Benzema already withdrawn at 1-0, Madrid couldn’t find a way to steal the three points.
They had surely been wary of the challenge they faced before they headed north of the Spanish capital. Madrid never looked capable of breaking down Valladolid's defence. Valladolid had conceded just one goal in their previous five home matches, a run which included a 1-0 win against Barcelona in March.
That Osorio goal now looks to have ruined Madrid’s dreams of clinching a possible treble.
With just two matches left to play, they are relying on Elche and Malaga to take points from Barcelona and Atletico this weekend.
The point in Valladolid lifts them to 84 points, one behind Barcelona and four behind Atletico.
If Atletico beat Malaga, it will become impossible for Ancelotti’s side to catch them. Even if Real Madrid somehow end up finishing level with either Barca or Atleti at the top of the table, they would lose out courtesy of their inferior head-to-head records against both clubs.
Madrid must now watch what looks likely to be a final-day shootout between Barca and Atleti at the Camp Nou.
Both Gerardo Martino and Diego Simeone enter the final two matches of the season knowing that their destiny is in their own hands.
If the Catalans win their remaining fixtures, they will be champions.
If Atletico draw their remaining fixtures, they will be champions.
Real Madrid need snookers.