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Keylor Navas and ten passengers


This is going to a long league campaign for Real Madrid. Having so many games to play with nothing to win or lose (third place was never really in danger) makes for a depressing season. We’re not used to watching Madrid games with so little on the line, and much less so are the players. So in the interlude before the return to Champions League action, with the quarter-final draw still to be made, the players are beginning to switch off. Some more so than others, but when half of them lose interest the team falls apart. And this problem is contagious. The situation was at its most dire yesterday. The one saving grace was Keylor Navas, who rescued the game.

Madrid won because that’s football and because they sniffed out two goals from corners. They didn’t win many (five) but did make good use of them. It’s a set piece for which Madrid possess the muscle of Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Cristiano and Bale, not to mention good crossers of the ball. Sergio got the first, to make it 0-1, with a fine towering header. The home defence misjudged a high ball to the back post which allowed an unmarked Casemiro to get the winner. But that’s all Madrid could conjure up throughout the whole ninety minutes. The rest of the good play, including Willian José’s wonderfully taken goal, was the work of Las Palmas. Well-crafted interplay and a growing sense of belief meant the hosts deserved to take the spoils.

This Las Palmas side play good football. With plenty of Canary Islanders in their ranks, the team’s brand of football harks back to the club’s golden generation, when Germán and Guedes took a composed approach to the game. Quique Setién is doing a great job with them. But the team that play best don’t always win, sometimes they don’t even draw. As Boskov would say: football is football. For all of Las Palmas’ good points, they were low on shots and were up against Keylor Navas, who was phenomenal yet again. The attention and sharpness displayed by the Costa Rican stands in stark contrast with the general ambivalence shown by the rest of the team. He is to thank for the result.