Hangovers are a terrible affliction.
Real Madrid suffered the mother of them on Wednesday, four days after Saturday’s cathartic and unexpected 2-1 Clasico upset of archrivals Barcelona in Catalonia. The 10-time European champions staggered to a 2-0 away defeat to Wolfsburg in the opening game of their Champions League quarterfinals tie.
Ninety minutes, and perhaps more, remain to set things right in the return leg. And you’d somehow still favor Real and its high-octane attack to pull through. Yet it was startling to see a side that had so cunningly lulled Barca into a false sense of security, before snagging a late win, lose comprehensively to their unfancied opponents.
Wolfsburg, after all, is living through a disappointing Bundesliga season, sagging to eighth place in spite of the heralded signings of Julian Draxler and Max Kruse to reinforce a strong attack following the departures of Kevin de Bruyne and Ivan Perisic. Yet somehow, the Wolves have also put together their best European campaign ever.
And after they breathed a deep sigh of relief when Cristiano Ronaldo’s second-minute goal was disallowed, for perhaps being inches offside on Karim Benzema’s smart through ball, Wolfsburg went on to a comfortable win.
In the 17th minute, Andre Schurrle was brought down by Casemiro in Real’s box. Ricardo Rodriguez converted the penalty kick.
Then, in the 25th minute, the busy Draxler hit a cross-field pass to Henrique. He needed three touches to settle the ball, but had so much space that he could still pick out Max Arnold on his low ball. Arnold only had to poke it past Keylor Navas, the Costa Rican goalkeeper conceding his first two goals in this competition eve
Then, to make things worse, Benzema was injured before the intermission.
All night long, Real looked out of sorts, sitting deep and absorbing pressure as they had against Barca. Only now they did so against a team they ought to have been passing off the park.
“Maybe we paid for the Clasico on Saturday,” manager Zinedine Zidane said after the game, per Dermot Corrigan, a reporter in Spain. “It hurts as we knew it would be difficult, but nobody, including me, expected this.”
In truth, things could have been worse. Schurrle might have added a third goal, had he not smashed his promising shot high in the second half.
Real still outperformed Wolfsburg in the Expected Goals department, but a pair of mistakes now threatens to cut short the Blancos’ attempt to salvage their season with a second European title in three years.
Source: Yahoo Sports