Zinedine Zidane’s side made a stunning comeback at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium in the second leg of their round of 16 Copa Del Rey tie to set a new 40 game unbeaten record at the expense of a resilient Sevilla side.
It was a thrilling 6 goal encounter at the home of the Andalusians, who put up a fantastic fight despite fielding a below-par side with a lot of key names such as Steven N’Zonzi and Samir Nasri left out by Jorge Sampaoli, keeping in mind their La Liga tie in a few days.
A silly own goal from Danilo in the 10th minute gave the home fans some hope, but that was later dashed in the second half after a sensational solo goal from Marco Asensio. New signing Steven Jovetic made his debut with a superb 53rd minute half volley and Vicente Iborra sent his side 3-1 by the 77th minute.
However, a few shrewd substitutions by Zidane ensured that Real Madrid were back on track. Captain Sergio Ramos converted an 83rd minute penalty in front of his former home fans and then substitute Karim Benzema’s superb solo goal ensured that Real Madrid set a new unbeaten record, snatching it away from arch rivals Barcelona.
40 games. The last time Real Madrid tasted defeat was in the Champions League quarter-final against Wolfsburg in April last year. Since then, they have been on an unprecedented run which has seen them win the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup.
Perhaps what makes it even sweeter is that they were the side that ended Barcelona’s winning streak and since then, 31 victories, 9 draws and 115 goals later Real Madrid have set their own record.
In those 40 games, they have conceded only 39 goals and have had 22 different players get on the scoresheet. It has been a phenomenal achievement masterminded by Zinedine Zidane, who is only adding to his great legacy at the club as a player with some fantastic achievements as it’s manager.
Benzema: Class Is Permanent
2016 was a difficult year for the Frenchman. Off field problems have severely affected his reputation and did not allow him to participate in his country’s Euro 2016 campaign. Injuries haven’t been kind to him either, but in spite of all this, he has remained the ultimate professional.
His stunning solo goal was his 12th of the season in 22 appearances, and probably his best of the season. It was sheer will (and a bit of good fortune) that helped him dribble past 4 Sevilla players before tapping in his side’s 3rd goal, and it was greeted with an ovation from the Sevilla fans.
Morata and Mariano both had disappointed games and squandered quite a few chances before Benzema was brought on for the former in the 78th minute, and he did exactly what a player of his quality would be expected to.
Morata’s return to the Santiago Bernabeu and Mariano’s emergence may have given Benzema some more competition, but the Frenchman continues to show why he’s the top dog in Real Madrid’s strike force and that the aforementioned duo have a long way to go before they can stake a claim to his starting position.
Next Generation Galacticos
Los Blancos were without the likes of Ronaldo, Bale, Rodriguez and Modric for this match. Karim Benzema, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane all started on the bench for this tie as Zinedine Zidane looked to take advantage of his side’s big first leg victory and rest some big names.
The 44-year-old’s faith in his youngsters and second string players paid off as Marco Asensio, Mariano, Kovacic, Nacho and Danilo (despite his own goal) all justified their selection with promising performances against Sevilla in an extremely difficult game.
Though a 3-3 scoreline isn’t something Real Madrid would be proud of, it was the manner in which they managed to get the result after going 2 goals down, before eventually coming back to set a new 40 match unbeaten record.
It was a performance that went on to show that Madrid were more than just the ‘BBC’ or the other big and expensive names. Zidane has been managing his youngsters brilliantly this season and is slowly getting them accustomed to high pressure games which helps them build character.
Injuries to Modric, Casemiro and Gareth Bale this season have all provided ample opportunity for Zidane to give the youngsters a chance. They have taken on the responsibility superbly and their contribution to Real Madrid’s new record is indisputable.
That is exactly what 20-year-old Marco Asensio did, as he went on a Gareth Bale-esque run in the 48th minute to score one of the goals of the season. It was a goal that in a way personified the spirit of this young Real Madrid side – desire, passion, sheer will and full of talent.