Zidane tinkered and was made to pay. He started with Morata, promoted by the fans but also through the player’s own merit, however did not touch the untouchable BBC. That made a team of four forwards, two midfielders and four defenders, like they used to play in the 70s. Zidane trusted, clearly, in the natural superiority of his Madrid players over their Legia opponents, who had already been put to the sword at the Bernabéu, and in their own ground by Dortmund. At first it seemed to work, and not only because of Bale’s magnificent goal straight from kickoff. Morata and Bale made apparent efforts to track back, Benzema operated alone up front, and – in spite of Cristiano having an off night – Madrid went comfortably 2-0 up.
But football can often be heretic. With such a good advantage, Madrid abandoned their superiority and lost control of the game, so it was not surprising what happened next: Legia raised their chins, discovered that they could saunter through midfield without much obstacle and began creating difficulties for Madrid. The goals came and they turned the game around. Zidane reacted cautiously at first (Lucas Vázquez on for Benzema) and with increasing nervousness later on when – with the score still at 2-2 – he threw everything forward like as if Madrid were playing knock-out football. And so, with Madrid in defensive disarray, Legia got the third.
Things didn’t end in disaster thanks to the late equaliser of Kovacic (who all in all had a great game), and could even have ended well if Lucas Vázquez’s cannon of a shot had gone in instead of cracking off the crossbar. In fact, the draw is not a catastrophe in terms of the table, but the image of Zidane cruising by on all four wheels only to finish up barely keeping the car on the road will take a while to fade. Last night he left a little stain on his reputation. He started the game with Benzema and Morata together and ended without either and Mariano on the pitch. The consequence was a chaotic draw.