Jesé’s goal was enough for Real Madrid to seal a crucial point at the San Mames against an inspired Athletic Club, while Cristiano Ronaldo picked up a controversial red card during the second half.
The Portuguese talisman grabbed a crucial assist to put Los Blancos in control as Jesé finished by a toe poke to Iraizoz’s right post. Their lead, however, was cut short by a thunderous shot from outside the box by Ibai Gomez – who is now the first player to score against Real Madrid in all competitions this year. Ibai has scored against Ancelotti’s men last year in November, but during a 5-1 defeat to Real Madrid.
Real Madrid are now tied with Barcelona on the table with points, but their rivals are ahead in second place due to a four goal differential. And because Atletico Madrid beat Real Sociedad 4-0, they now sit first in La Liga.
Shortly after Athletic’s response, Ronaldo was given a straight red for getting in a feud with Carlos Gurpegui. Ronaldo deliberately attempted to scratch the midfielder after the two were arguing. Gurpegui may have fell theatrically from Ronaldo’s graze of the hair; however, it’s the intention and attempt of trying to hurt him that allowed him to get sent off.
The only complaint that can be made is Athletic’s Itturraspe should have been given the same treatment: a red card. His attempt to headbutt Ronaldo after the incident should have seen him being sent off. It would have been right to punish both Ronaldo and Itturaspe, but I digress.
Aside from the controversy, this match was a litmus test for Ancelotti’s men. While they did not attain all three points, they, more importantly, stood their ground at the San Mames. Additionally, Los Blancos retained their unbeaten streak all year and that is what can help propel them to a good first leg against Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey this coming Wednesday.
Ultimately, what should be taken from this match is Real Madrid’s ability to endure the second half without Ronaldo. Their defense throughout the game, too, should be commended. Pepe and Ramos continued to lead the line with confidence. Carvajal kept his right back tidy and provided some passes going forward. It was Marcelo, however, who was the weak link today: he constantly was dispossessed and failed to provide defensive cover on the left back. Along with Marcelo, Xabi Alonso was unfortunately mediocre and sprayed balls off target during times in the game where Los Blancos needed tempo on the ball.
Come Wednesday, Atletico Madrid will be ready for their city rivals. Their 4-0 demolition against Real Sociedad today has put them atop La Liga. Bring on the Copa del Rey drama!