Believe it or not, it can also be cold in Madrid, as was the case for the 58,129 fans watching Sunday’s match at the Santiago Bernabéu without a temperature.
“I hope they finish building soon and close the roof so we can be a little warmer!” Thibaut Courtois, who was wearing the glove, joked, referring to the ongoing renovation of Real Madrid’s stadium.
But what really made Madrid and Courtois fans suffer was the result: a 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad leaves Carlo Ancelotti’s side five points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona, who seem to find ways to win no matter the circumstances.
Not like Madrid, who played “one of the best games of the season, from start to finish,” as Ancelotti himself put it, but failed to score for the first time in the league this season.
Madrid seems to have forgotten the old Spanish adage “dress me slowly, I’m in a hurry”, and the meaning of the phrase implying that urgent tasks are better completed less quickly and more quickly.
Ancelotti had complained just a few days earlier about his side’s poor first-half performance and from the start the hosts went straight for goal, starting at a much faster pace than in recent matches.
As a result, Real Madrid finished the match with 20 shots in total. But unlike in the previous league, where they scored 10 shots at Athletic Bilbao and won 2-0, here they couldn’t make the breakthrough.
The team achieved a league season high of 60 dribbling attempts and hit the target seven times but the Sociedad defense and goalkeeper Alex Remiro stood strong, well bolstered by Martin Zubemendi’s persistent efforts in midfield.
And in the closing stages, with so much energy spent, Real Madrid seemed to lack a plan B. The introduction of Luka Modric and Marco Asensio with around 15 minutes to play did not provide the momentum they needed. If anything it was Sociedad who finished the strongest.
Real Madrid’s expected goal number that night was 1.28. When they beat Barcelona 3-1 here in October, the score was 1.14. When they beat Bilbao 2-0 in San Mamés, the score was 1.11.
This was one of their best shows in recent times, but they just couldn’t find it on the net.
Camavinga and Vinicius Jr., a new left-wing alliance?
The partnership between Eduardo Camavinga and Vinicius Junior at Madrid’s bottom left was fantastic. They were the main protagonists of the team in attack, and were involved in 48% of all attacking moves from their side in the second half.
Camavinga, who plays at left-back to cover for the injured Ferland Mendy, occupied a more familiar left wing position and produced impressive performances, his fourth in a row, in various roles across defense and midfield.
His threat in running and attacking left Vinicius Junior more scope to unleash his dribbling skills. The Brazilian played with high confidence and good flair, as he made 21 dribbling attempts, which is the highest record in a La Liga match since at least the 2005-2006 season, according to Opta statisticians.
But that didn’t save him from being picked off by Ancelotti, who seemed to be asking him to take risks on the pitch. Vinicius Junior had Real Madrid’s best chance of the night, in a one-on-one with Remiro in the second half, but his effort was stymied.
“I saw him take two small steps to get comfortable and that made me anxious,” the goalkeeper said after the match. “I was imagining he would do something he just could but in the end I stopped him.”
Remiro made seven stops, the highest number in his La Liga season so far, and was praised by former Real Madrid and Spain captain Iker Casillas, who compared him to Luis Arconada, the best goalkeeper in Sociedad history.
Sociedad were looking for their sixth consecutive league win and that they created chances to do so was quite an achievement given that they had nine injury absentees including key midfielders Mikel Merino and David Silva.
Although they did not achieve their goal, Courtois denied Takefusa Kubo several times, but Emanol Alguazel’s side came away with a point and remained third in the standings.
“Although I have a lot of respect for Madrid, and they are the best if not one of the best teams in La Liga and Europe, I appreciate my team, no matter who they face,” said the coach.
His phrase can be understood as a declaration of intent from a team that wants to do big things this season, and seems capable of that too. Ten years ago, Sociedad finished fourth in La Liga and qualified for the Champions League, where Antoine Griezmann shone in attack. Having now played half their matches this campaign, they look well positioned to get back into contention.
(Top photo: Denis Doyle/Getty Images)