Cristiano, Morata and the ‘noventa minuti’
In the words of legendary Real Madrid forward Juanito, ’90 minutes at the Bernabéu is a very long time.’ And, as long-time coach Luis Molowny often said, ‘everything is possible until the referee blows the final whistle.’ Sporting will feel hard done by and they have every right to. They played well – far better than Madrid did – and they had the game won with just a minute to go before losing it at the death. Madrid’s first came from Cristiano’s sublime free kick, awarded for what I honestly don’t think was a foul; the second in the 94th minute, with Morata climbing high to head home a precision cross from James. Madrid snatched a 2-1 win at the death and rendered all of Sporting’s good work irrelevant.
Sporting impressed, Madrid didn't
This Sporting side are a good, solid team from top to bottom. William Carvalho controlled the midfield well, Bryan Ruiz drove them forward, Gelson Martins was a constant threat down the right wing and Bruno César was everywhere. I liked almost everything about them. Madrid, on the other hand, found things difficult. Cristiano and Benzema, two key players, weren’t on top form. Marcelo also disappointed; Martins caused him a lot of problems and he didn’t get forward enough. The match didn’t look good for Madrid, so much so that it was surprising that Sporting didn’t score until the second half.
A spirit so typical of Real Madrid in Europe
Madrid improved after Zidane’s substitutions (Bale went off with a knock after an hour followed by Benzema and Kroos to be replaced by Lucás Vázquez, Morata and James) but Sporting held firm. Lucas Vázquez didn’t put a foot wrong, Morata reinvigorated the attack and James passed the ball around well. Cristiano came close with a shot that rattled the post but time passed with no breakthrough. Until, that is, the miracle, the goals and the euphoria. This was so typical of Real Madrid, above all in Europe, a combination self-belief and a power drawn from beyond. What a special club!