Oh dear. Sven Ulreich, what have you done?
Bayern’s deputy keeper had been enjoying an excellent season in goal for FC Hollywood right up to about 8.50 last night, when his howler to end all howlers helped usher Real Madrid into their fourth Champions League final in five years.
It was an astonishing stroke of luck for the Spanish side in a two-legged tie during which they were visibly the inferior team. And yet, here we are, with Ramos, Ronaldo and Co one step away from making it a baker’s dozen for Real in the world’s biggest club competition.
They even had the t-shirts with the big pre-emptive ’13’ printed and ready to go. They were expecting to progress, despite the evidence of the first leg suggesting the eleven men wearing red were better at football.
Real Madrid’s commemorative T-shirt: “A por la 13” “To the 13th” pic.twitter.com/jvZJXViRtd
— Real Madrid Info (@RMadridInfo) May 1, 2018
Real Madrid believe they are going to win the Champions League every time they enter it. It’s not hard to wonder why, given their recent record. Self-assurance oozes from their pores, even when they’re being outpassed, outrun and out-thought by an opponent, as was the case on Tuesday evening.
That match encapsulated what this side is all about. Or, well, maybe it didn’t – because, in fact, does anyone apart from Twitter’s tactics shut-ins actually know what this side is all about?
They don’t really seem to do very much.
Except, obviously, continually win games of football against other massive clubs on the European stage. Florentino Perez and Zinedine Zidane must have signed some sort of pact with the devil in order to ensure their team’s repeated continental success. It’s hard to imagine that some sort of infernal power was not responsible for keeping the ball out of Keylor Navas’ net in that astonishing last 25 minutes at the Bernabeu.
Certainly, the Costa Rican keeper made some solid saves and the Germans’ finishing was uncharacteristically slack over both legs. But Real have form – how many times have we seen them sleepwalk past another giant of football this season alone?
There have been periods when Zidane’s side have looked excellent over the past five campaigns – hardly a surprise with Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale in the squad. From the quarter-finals onwards in 2016/17, they were superb.
Aside from that, though, they seem to have got by on some sort of high-functioning autopilot, trundling their way to a series of European triumphs without ever having to shift into a serious gear. They are inexorable.
Yet, this is far from an avowedly reactionary, defensive side in the mould of José’s United. Nor is it a cavalier, thrusting attacking team like Liverpool, who are dead certs to be their opponents in the final.
Many observers feel that Jurgen Klopp’s team – or rather, its front three – will wipe Real’s defence off the map. But the boys in white will feel right at home when that anthem starts blaring in Ukraine. Most all of them have been there, done that, been coerced into wearing the cringy post-victory t-shirt.
To put it simply, Madrid gonna Madrid. You write off these serial winners at your peril.