Last night in the Madrid/Celta game, somehow 3 records were either made or tied. First the record for most consecutive wins in all competitions by a Spanish club was tied after Real madrid won their 18th consecutive match in all competitions, thus tying Barcelona record from 2005/06.
Furthermore, the game also witnessed Cristiano setting not one, but two La Liga records with his hatrick: most hatricks in La Liga and fastest to reach 200 Liga goals. It is indeed pretty incredible to see Cristiano Ronaldo reach 200 La Liga goals in just 178 games, 42 games less than the former fastest player to reach that mark, the legendary Telmo Zarra (220 games). It was also remarkable to witness a player set the all-time record for most hatricks after being in the league for just 5 years. Normal players are not capable of these sort of accomplishments, but Cristiano isn’t really ‘normal’.
All of these records did not come easily however, as Celta made it extremely difficult and challenging for the current La Liga leaders. Without the creativeness of Luka Modric or the penetration Isco’s skills provide, Real Madrid found it pretty hard going forward against a well-organized Celta defence that isolated the front 3 (BBC) from the midfielders. Celta Vigo played very well but couldn’t translate that into meaningful chances, that is demonstrated by the fact that after half an hour, Real Madrid had 10 shots compared to Celta’s zero. Celta were able to create spaces with their quick passes but Real Madrid (and Ancelotti) were anticipating this as we saw, uncharacteristically, a Madrid side that was sitting back somewhat and content to attack on the break…. at the Bernabeu. However, the Madrid defence that conceded just 1 goal in the last 5 matches and 2 in the last 8 really shone last night with fantastic performances by the centre back pair of Ramos and Pepe. Ramos in particular, who was playing his 300th Liga match with Real Madrid was on game all night and was able to shut down some dangerous counters especially by Celta’s Nolito.
Along with these positives was the fact that the BBC alone was able to create numerous chances through out the night and was it not for Celta’s GK Alvarez, who was equally brilliant vs Barcelona and Atletico, the scoreline would’ve been very different. There were some downsides however as James Rodriguez began to show the effects of playing every single match this season as he appeared to pull a muscle (looked like his calf). Also the weird substitution of Arbeloa after James’s injury, to push Carvajal into midfield, was unconventional by Ancelotti as Arbeloa was tasked with guarding Celta’s most dangerous player, Nolito. Further on in the match when Benzema was subbed off for Coentrao, Real Madrid were playing in a rigid 4-4-2 with all 4 of the team’s fullbacks on the pitch at the same time (Marcelo, Coentrao, Carvajal, and Arbeloa). Perhaps the unavailability of Khedira, Modric, and Isco coupled with the injury to James left Ancelotti with little choice but to field all fullbacks at once. Continuing on the midfield aspect, Kroos surprisingly misplaced easy passes and lost possession a few times in less-than-dangerous situations, something that even Ancelotti deemed “unsuale”. The bright spark of the make-shift midfield was however Illarramendi who was decisive through out the whole night and even got the Bernabeu crowd to cheer for him as he intercepted passes all match long. He certainly made a strong case for his inclusion in upcoming matches if it turns out that James is truly injured.
Man of the Match: Cristiano
Was there any doubt? The hatrick hero has become the fastest player in Spain’s history to reach 150 and 200 goals in La Liga, achieving the later milestone in just 178 matches, at least 42 matches less than any other player in history. To put it into perspective, Lionel Messi needed 9 years and 235 matches to reach 200 La Liga goals. Even if you take his goals away, Cristiano was involved in the build-up play more often than usual and showcased the chemistry between Real Madrid’s famed BBC more than ever with quick 1-touch passes and through balls. Cristiano has now, unbelievably, been directly involved in 14 goals in his last 5 matches in La Liga with 7 goals scored and 7 assists provided, a testament to his form at the moment. The Portuguese legend has now accumulated 23 goals in La Liga this season (and we’re still in early December) plus having a total of 29 goals in all competitions so far this season. If he keeps it up and avoids injury, we may very well see the very best season (goal scoring at least) in Cristiano Ronaldo’s career.