Madrid find a 12th man in Keylor Navas

Madrid find a 12th man in Keylor Navas

The Madrid keeper's heroics kept his side’s fine start, capped off with goals from Cristiano and Danilo, intact. Nolito pulled one back in the second-half with a fine effort after Cabral had been sent off. Marcelo put the game to bed in the last minute.

The questions raised by Madrid’s visit to Celta were whether a side are actually playing well when their best player is the goalkeeper. If we cast our eyes over the stats, it’s plain for all to see: Madrid strengthened their position at the top of the table after winning at Balaídos. Yet if we also observe the smoke rising up from Keylor’s gloves another conclusion can be reached: Madrid do not have the balance Benítez claims they do, glaringly obvious in Celta’s 17 shots to Madrid’s 14.

Another matter is the Madrid keeper's spiritual presence, his goalkeeping harmony and cat-like athleticism. Even Madrid’s best moments were nowhere near the brilliance of their goalkeeper, and the Costa Rican was responsible for palming away at least four nailed-on goals.

For the visitors, the first ten minutes were sharp and incisive. A glut of backheels and quick passing led to Ronaldo's opening goal. Lucas Vázquez slid the ball across goal and the Portuguese’s quick feet and quick thinking made it as he swivelled and smashed the ball past Sergio.

Celta reacted, mainly through Nolito, who darted and weaved around the Madrid box but was unable to hit the target with any conviction. This also signalled the start of Keylor’s exhibition goalkeeping.

Balaídos were just recapturing their voice when Danilo arrived to score the visitor’s second. Jesé this time was the provider and the Brazilian beat Sergio at his near post – the same as Cristiano - with aplomb. Celta had paid for their boldness and leaving so much space for a side like Madrid is asking for trouble.

Nevertheless, to their credit the hosts refused to surrender, and Berizzo’s side hopped onto their front foot to force Keylor’s hand and heroics, denying Jonny, Aspas and Pablo Hernández - the Celta players must have been rubbing their eyes in disbelief to go in at half-time still 2-0 down.

The aggression with which Celta started the second half saw them fighting their own demons, and inevitably ended up with ten men as Cabral was dismissed for a second bookable offence. Aspas was also playing with fire as he took the game to Madrid and could also have found himself gracing the dressing room before the final whistle.

It was, in fact, Nolito who started to plant the seeds of doubt in the Madrid minds. His first clear-cut chance saw him slide the ball through the stranded Keylor’s legs only for Marcelo to clear the danger on the line. Although it was starting to look like it wouldn’t be the home side’s day, Nolito refused to surrender and continued to knock at the Madrid front door, this time breaking it cleanly off its hinges as he rifled the ball into the top corner.

With five minutes of stoppage time Celta pushed forward to force an improbable draw, which also left them open at the back. Marcelo lapped up the space in front of him in the dying seconds to finally seal the three points for Madrid.

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