Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema win all arguments for Madrid supporters


Real Madrid's Brazilian striker Vinicius Junior controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League semi-final soccer match between Manchester City and Real Madrid at Etihad stadium.

Real Madrid’s Brazilian striker Vinicius Junior controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League semi-final soccer match between Manchester City and Real Madrid at Etihad stadium.
picture: Getty Images

That doesn’t mean Madrid won last night because they certainly didn’t. 4-3 scores when you have the three is a loss in the scorebook. And it’s that kind of scathing analysis that keeps you coming back for more. But Madrid “won” by a one-goal deficit in the second leg at home, where white-shirted gremlins have emerged to bite PSG and Chelsea. both of whom have outplayed Madrid in most of their two-legged duels is something they will feel comfortable with. And they “won” because they were supposed to be down by three or four or 12.

No matter what topic you’re arguing about, do you have that one friend who has just the simplest, most accessible, poorly thought-through argument, but it always comes out on top? For example, in the most annoying debate of our time, LeBron vs. MJ, no matter how well you make LeBron’s case (because he’s better), that friend is going to be the one just holding up six fingers. It’s lazy, it’s uncreative, but it’s also fundamentally irrefutable. You can argue the semantics or nuance as well as you like, but they won’t hear anything past “six rings.” You might as well present your well-considered case to an aardvark. Or take it back to one we all know. “Because I’m your mother.” Well, yes you are, and you could very well be wrong, but what the hell can I say?

This is Madrid. Because they got kicked out six kinds of shit by City in the first leg yesterday in Manchester. City led 1-0 within 90 seconds and 2-0 after 10 minutes. Carlo Ancelotti’s solution to the injury-related absence of his midfield anchor Casemiro was not to bring in the (albeit somewhat directionless) energy of Eduardo CamaVinga at the base to throw up something resembling a roadblock. It should install Toni Kroos as the deepest midfielder. Even in his pomp, Kroos had the agility of a shipwrecked man. So City’s midfield raced wildly, over, around and through Madrid. You could have scored any number. One gets the sense that Ancelotti’s tactics never really went further than, “Start around there and go play.” All the while, City looked like Disco Demolition Night across the field. Pep’s plan and his men were ruthless, relentless and dynamic for the game’s opening.

But Ancelotti and Madrid almost always come through with their plans or not, no matter what they try, because they can say: “We have Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema.”

This is not a great opportunity, it is certainly not produced by patient or complicated building, and no weakness is exploited or a sustained plan is executed. It’s a good chance coming from a harem fear action in midfield when the ball pings around and it’s a cross. There’s still work to be done and it’s on the weaker side of Benzema and yet none of it matters. If there is an opportunity, Madrid has this card to play.

They continued to get their skulls kicked around and if someone had dealt Riyad Mahrez a card they would have fallen 3 or 4-1 at half-time. It wasn’t long before City scored the third goal in the second half and again it looked like they were going to find the revs that Madrid can’t match and run into the distance.

But Madrid have Vinicius Jr.

We should pause here to include Guardiola’s reaction as well, not to Vinicius’ goal but to his dummy launching his attack on the City box because he obviously knew what was to come:

Ok, yes, Fernandinho is not a right-back and is three days older than Wasser. And yes, Aymeric Laporte takes, shall we say, an abstract path back to defense that never comes within five yards of Vinicius. But all of that only matters because it’s Vinicius Jr. who turns that kind of opportunity and space into a target every time.

Again City came at Madrid like a lion at an antelope, should have scored more but again took a two-goal lead thanks to a lightning strike from Bernardo Silva. A 4:2 would not have ended the semifinals overall, but it would have been damn comfortable. But this is Madrid, so they’ll get a call. And they have Benzema.

It is important to note that Benzema missed two penalties against Osasuna just a few days earlier. So of course he wanted to pull out the panenka, which essentially means pull out your nuts and put them on the table. And because it’s Benzema, they’re globe-sized nuts (as some have implied, it’s the kind of confidence and swagger that can only come from dating Rihanna, and fair play). This is a Champions League semi-final and your team lost two and was second best in the field, asshole. That’s just not right.

Madrid should have lost to PSG. They should have lost to Chelsea. They should have been ritually killed by City. And yet they stand there and say, “Yes, but we have Benzema and Vinicius.” And there’s nothing you can say back. If you threw the same squad in Real Sociedad shirts and called them Real Sociedad, they probably would have been eliminated in the group stage. But there’s just something about Real Madrid and shit just happens. It will likely continue to happen even if there is no logical reason for it. This is the most annoying fight in the world.

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