- Another overconfidence, from Baba, kills Mallorca and shoots the leader. Benzema scored a brace and left injured. Rodrygo and Mendy also fell.
Madrid survived the day after, which is not easy when the euphoria reaches one above the neck. It was without the emotion or the champagne of the Champions League and with the dark efficiency of so many afternoons, but it served the leader to further distance Sevilla and take away the remote hope for Barça. A goal from Vinicius, a product of that selective pressure applied by Madrid (ask Donnarumma), and another two from Benzema closed the lawsuit. The pair is unstoppable, regardless of whether the team glows or clouds. Mallorca was very tough in all senses of the term, but it was not enough. Salvation goes the other way.
It is difficult to find the moment to give Modric a break, the player for whom this Madrid breathes. Durable but not indefatigable, Ancelotti took to the mountain at Son Moix and left him on the bench in an interwar match, the one against PSG and the one to come against Barça, because a defeat didn’t break anything. He also saved Carvajal’s expense, who is very far from himself. A controlled blast, nothing to do with those massive rotations of Zidane that offered results of all colors.
Without Modric, it was difficult for Madrid to start in a game that was not misleading: Mallorca denied him the open field by shrinking his lines and inviting him to the game he least likes, the one in which spaces are scarce. In fact, his first great opportunity came on the counterattack, started and culminated by Benzema, after making a stopover in a sprint by Vinicius. Sergio Rico guessed the chopped shot.
Maffeo and Vinicius
Without the Bernabéu, without PSG, without the adrenaline of the Champions League, and in a Monday game, Madrid dangerously lowered the volume. No one is shirtless every day, but there are hangovers that end up in the barracks. He reminded Madrid Muriqi, one of those percussion strikers without finesse but with the soul of a gladiator. He does not let a disputed pass, although he did let a very clear shot pass on Brian Oliván’s delivery. The fight is one thing and the success, another.
It is not that Madrid lay back, but that propensity for control football that delays their victories too much, most of them in sprint, very few in escape. In addition, their most active footballer, Vinicius, met Mallorca’s best defender and one of the best full-backs in the league, Maffeo. He was a bone by the good and sometimes by the bad (he should have seen the red in an inning that resulted in a yellow card for the Brazilian; less punishment for the action than for the reaction, a classic of national arbitration). He even hit Maffeo to reach the other area and hit the post with a half-missed shot that left Courtois stunned.
Madrid produced very little before the break. Valverde did not break the lines like Modric, Mallorca doubled its guard on the wings to avoid being besieged and all of Benzema’s initiatives in the short game were guessed by the Balearic center-backs. Only Vinicius was at maximum. Before going to the locker room, he put Alaba in luck inside the area, but his shot was lost in that vermilion thicket that surrounded Sergio Rico.
The other point of interest of the duel, Kubo, was not so. The Japanese, the eternal opponent of Madrid, is more essential than presence. His left appears and disappears, but he doesn’t decide.
The first half game, in any case, closed with more options for Mallorca. It is already known that all the teams are hardened by the drama and that many of them are nougat from Jijona in autumn and from Alicante in spring, where the margin of error is reduced to almost nothing. No one like Luis Aragonés explained this seasonal transformation.
Madrid increased their pressure by one point in the second half and that, like against PSG, gave them the game. When the lung does not give for sustained harassment, the question is choosing when to throw the rest. The success this time was Valverde, who caught Baba in Babia (Mallorca called for a foul without reason or conviction). The theft was half a goal because it left Benzema and Vinicius in front of a defenseless Valent. The Brazilian resolved with a shot from below with that calm learned over the years.
Ancelotti then thought about tying up the game (Modric finally arrived) and in the Clásico (Camavinga relieved a Casemiro who had more than deserved the card that would prevent him from playing on Sunday). He was yet to come the best and the worst. Benzema scored his brace, from a penalty and a header, to match his highest-scoring season, but he was unable to finish the game with a soleus injury. Earlier, a brutal entry by Raíllo had sent Rodrygo to the dugout with a very battered ankle (the first impression is terrible) and Mendy had also left touched. Three mishaps in the midst of general happiness.
Who knows how many of the injured will make it to the Clásico, but that match will no longer be for the League? It will be a matter of honor with very few accounting effects. Madrid’s horizon is in the Champions League. The rest is a maintenance exercise.