REAL MADRID 7 - SEVILLA 3
Goal-fest: hat-trick for Cristiano, braces for Bale and Benzema
Ronaldo dedicated his first goal to Blatter. Bale’s pre-season is behind him, two goals and two assists. Both defences were very poor.
There had been signs of Bale before the game, but we didn’t know if he had luck on his side or not. And yesterday we found out that the Goddess Fortuna is in fact a big fan of the Welshman. In his debut in a starting XI at the Bernabéu he scored two goals and set up two more. He had a decisive role in this festival of Madrid goals, which also included a Cristiano hat-trick and two for Benzema.
The seven Madrid goals weren’t the only heroics the game saw: Sevilla broke the world record for sporting come-backs, either in a boxing ring or on a football pitch. Almost every time they conceded they went straight up looking for a reply... until Rakitic missed a penalty to make it 6-4 and they finally accepted the harsh reality.
Although it was disconcertingly barmy at times, the game finished as it had started: beautifully. The first half hour from Madrid, so long ago now, was excellent. Every pass was a note in a symphony of football. They were joyful, dynamic, ordered and coherent. Illarramendi adds speed without even running a metre, just by his turns. You might think he’s a croupier, because he plays without betting anything, but he’s key to how the casino runs. Elegance, remember, is effort without tension.
Everything worked. Cristiano and Bale opened the horizon and Isco connected the lines like a telephone operator, "one moment, I’ll put you through". And more – Benzema had his dancing shoes on. And so, Madrid were taller, stronger, faster and more of a team than Sevilla. Proof is that Isco could have scored after three minutes at the end of a wonderfully triangulated move.
At the start Cristiano waslooking for runs from Bale, confirming the good relationship between the two. After a while we saw that there were more in the group. Benzema picked up the ball in the box and waited until his new chum was in the right place, whereupon he set him up to perfection. The left foot shot from the Welshman was the best way to say thanks for the gift. The shot, as splendid as it was original, showed off his particular style of kicking a football, curling round the ball as if it was a forehand top spin drive from Nadal.
Sevilla were having a torrid time, but they kept fighting. They were never completely down and out. Not even after Bale scored his second, a free kick that came off Alberto Moreno’s hand and went spiralling into the back of the net. They even coped with a very doubtful penalty by Navarro on Isco, scored by Cristiano. Better than the goal was the celebration: a military salute to the president of FIFAstan.
At 3-0 another team would have called parley! Sevilla went up and scored two. The first for a soft penalty by Ramos on Jairo, converted by Rakitic and then a long run by Vitolo and a spot of subtle skill from Jairo saw Bacca free to stab home for the second. Arbeloa, who had been surpassed by Vitolo was roundly booed by the Bernabéu.
The second half had more madness. In the 52nd minute Jairo had 3-3 at his boots, but he hit it tamely and from the clearance Madrid made it 4-2. Benzema converting cooly from Bale’s assist. He then set up Cristiano to make it 5-2. And the roller-coaster kept going, Bale dived to try and win a penalty and the ball went all the way to the other end where Rakitic scored a gem of a goal, another left foot strike, to make it 5-3. Diego López then saved well from Gameiro and Ronaldo got his third – another huge deflection taking the ball past Beto (6-3). The referee then made up another penalty, for Sevilla, but Rakitic missed it. And the closing act was another Benzema goal, a textbook header.
There were no more because there wasn’t time. Madrid had found their football, their Fortuna or their chemistry. Or maybe it’s simpler: they’d found Bale.