There was a sense of confusion, bafflement, around the Santiago Bernabeu as the full time whistle blew on Real Madrid’s 3-0 home defeat to Barcelona, on their 2018/19 Copa del Rey campaign, on Wednesday night. The home supporters had seen their team ragdoll their fiercest rivals for the majority of the 90 minutes, yet it was they who ended up on the wrong end of the emphatic scoreline.
Indeed, the statistics at full time made for bemusing reading. Real Madrid managed 14 shots on goal compared to Barcelona’s four. What’s more, many of those efforts from Real Madrid were high quality chances. Vinicius Junior in particular was presented with a number of opportunities to find the net.
When it mattered most, Real Madrid lacked cutting edge. They had been in good form coming into the Copa del Rey semi final. Their first leg draw at Camp Nou set them up nicely to make the final of a competition they haven’t won in five years. And yet Barcelona showed them up when the pressure was on.
This is where Cristiano Ronaldo was so important for Real Madrid in years gone by. The kind of performance turned in by Los Meringues on Wednesday night wasn’t especially unusual, it’s just that previously they had Ronaldo to drag them through, to get them over the line.
Nine months after his departure to Juventus, Real Madrid still haven’t stepped out from under the shadow of their former Portuguese forward. A few weeks ago, it seemed that Karim Benzema was filling the void, scoring six goals in a run of five games, but that streak has since come to a halt.
Vinicius has widely been labelled the Ronaldo replacement at the Santiago Bernabeu, and with good reason. The emergence of the Brazilian teenager was a turning point in Real Madrid’s season. He has given them a forward thrust that they had been previously lacking. Many of their attacking moves flow through him.
However, Vinicius is still a teenager and there’s only so much he can do on his own. The majority of the opportunities he spurned on Wednesday night were of his own making. Relying on him to create and score is not a sustainable plan for Real Madrid in the post-Ronaldo age. The defeat to Barcelona exposed the problems that they are still facing.
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