Real Madrid avoided a setback in the La Liga Santander title race as Isco’s late winner saw them beat Sporting Gijon 3-2 to maintain their lead atop the table.
The entire BBC was absent from the matchday squad for Saturday as Zinedine Zidane looked forward to the all-important second leg of the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals against Bayern Munich. But the league was of equal importance and the manager was slated for resting the duo while Bale was out with a minor injury.
And as the match started, the rumblings grew louder, with Real Madrid succumbing to an early goal from Sporting Gijon. The home side were relentless and despite struggling at the bottom end of the table, gave a good account of their abilities.
However, a brace from Isco and a goal from Alvaro Morata sealed the deal for Real Madrid, who maintain their three-point lead over Barcelona in the standings, with Los Blancos having a game in hand over their rivals.
We at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at some of the significant talking points to emerge from the result.
Real Madrid fans ran out of expletives for Isco on Saturday as the Spaniard produced a genius goal a-la Messi while he also came up with the winner late into the game, to rescue the away side and gain all three points.
Isco vs Gijon (A)
2 shots (2 OT)
4 chances created
10 dribbles completed
— 7 (@drinlala) April 15, 2017
The player has been linked with an exit from the club, primarily due to lack of game time, with even Barcelona interested in the Spaniard. However, performances like these are likely to give Florentino Perez a lot to think about and the president might bear the brunt of fans if he lets Isco leave, especially to Barcelona.
Zinedine Zidane has never feared an opposition during his playing days and it seems he has carried on that habit to his managerial career as well. At big clubs like Real Madrid, resting several key players together is often considered a taboo and has brought poor results along with it.
However, the manager has continuously rotated his team around the entire season and on Saturday, he rested as many as 10 starters while managing to field a lineup strong enough to win the match.
And think about this now, Zidane rested 10 starters
— Isco (@Isco_addict) April 15, 2017
The Frenchman seems to be developing his own bold brand of managerial style at Bernabeu and it looks like Real Madrid are set to reap the benefits.
Much like Manchester United has gotten accustomed to Fergie-time – the ability of the team to mount comebacks late into the game, Real Madrid seem to be developing a similar taste for late comebacks under Zinedine Zidane.
The side came back for the umpteenth time this season under Zidane, which even though is a testament to the team’s character, is also down to the manager’s ability to spur his team on and instill the sense of not admitting defeat until the whistle blows.
Real Madrid have scored 18 goals after the 80th minute in #LaLiga this season; more than any other club.
Zidane time. ⏱ pic.twitter.com/gKgz4VH4C8
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 15, 2017
On Saturday, Zidane’s side mounted another comeback, which has become routine for them this season and has enabled them to maintain their lead over Barcelona. Never mind the quality of the opposition, the self-belief in the current Real Madrid squad is tremendous.
And the credit goes to the manager for instilling such a belief within the squad.
Determined Danilo produces a rare error-free display
Danilo has been scrutinised heavily this season, with the Brazilian committing several errors – unbecoming of a player who was seeking to be a starter at the Bernabeu. The player was cast aside for a few matches but on Saturday, he produced a display that may bring him back into the eyes of the manager, who may grant him more minutes.
The player produced five successful tackles without being dispossessed even once by the opposition, and it was he who provided the assist for Alvaro Morata, Real’s second on the day.
Danilo vs Sporting Gijón
86% passing accuracy
5 tackles completed
5 ball recoveries
4 chances created
2 take ons completed
1 assist pic.twitter.com/ZRHQLQ1gTm
— Brazil Football 🇧🇷 (@BrazilEdition) April 15, 2017
It was his 50th match for Real Madrid and he seems to have capped it off with a solid display. It would be interesting to see whether Danilo remains beyond the season but he will be determined to give it all on the pitch at every chance he gets.
Real Madrid might need more than 1 goalkeeper in the summer
Real Madrid are seeking a move for either of Thibaut Courtois or David De Gea in the summer. Needless to say, whoever arrives will be the first-choice at Bernabeu, which in turn will see the departure of Keylor Navas from the club, who is unlikely to prefer being the second-choice.
— Sportify (@sportifyio) April 15, 2017
However, Kiko Casilla’s performance on Saturday raised a pertinent question. If Zidane wants to rotate his squad, he might need another goalkeeper in the summer, one who can be a solid second-choice at the club. Casilla failed to register a single save on Saturday, conceding 2 goals.
Surely, Zidane will have noticed the aforementioned and is likely to ask Perez to move for – not one – but two goalkeepers in the summer – an undisputed first-choice and a solid second-choice.