Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema win all arguments from Real Madrid fans

Real Madrid's Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg between Manchester City and Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.

Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg between Manchester City and Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.
Image: Getty Images

That’s not to say Real Madrid won last night, because they certainly didn’t. 4-3 results when you have all three is a scorebook loss. And it’s that kind of biting analysis that keeps you coming back. But Real Madrid “won” with a one-goal deficit when the return game is at home, where white-shirted gremlins showed up to bite PSG and Chelsea, who have beaten Real Madrid in most two-legged ties, is something they will be comfortable with. And they “won” because they should be losing three or four, or 12.

Do you have that friend, no matter what topic you’re arguing about, who just makes the easiest, most accessible, and poorly thought out argument, but is always the trump card? For example, in the most irritating debate of our time, LeBron vs. MJ, no matter how well you expose LeBron’s case (because he’s better), this friend is going to be the one who just puts six fingers up. He’s lazy, he’s not creative, but he’s also basically irrefutable. You can argue the semantics or nuance all you want, but they won’t hear anything beyond “six rings.” You can also declare your case well defined for an aardvark. Or take it back to one we all know. “Because I’m your mother.” Well, yes you are, and you might as well be wrong, but what the hell am I going to say?

This is Madrid. Because they got six types of shit sent off by City yesterday in the first leg in Manchester. City won 1-0 in 90 seconds and 2-0 after 10 minutes. Carlo Ancelotti’s solution to not having midfielder Casemiro injured was not to bring the energy (even if a little aimlessly) of Eduardo Camavengeance on the base to spew anything resembling a roadblock. It was to install Toni Kroos as the deepest midfielder. Even in his pomp, Kroos had the mobility of a shipwreck. So City’s midfield ran wild, over, around and through Madrid. They could have dialed any number. One gets the feeling that Ancelotti’s tactics never went beyond “Start there and go play”. Meanwhile, City looked like Disco Demolition Night across the field. Pep’s plan and men were relentless, relentless and dynamic for the opening game.

But Ancelotti and Madrid almost always manage to get away with whatever plans they have or don’t have, whatever they’re trying to do, because they can say, “We’ve got Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema”.

This is not a great chance, it is certainly not produced by patient or intricate construction, and it is not exploiting a weakness or executing a sustained plan. It’s a good chance that comes from some harem-scare action in midfield with the ball dripping around, and it’s a cross. There’s still a lot to do, and it’s on Benzema’s weaker side, but none of that matters. If there is a small opening, Madrid have this card to play.

They kept getting their skulls kicked, and if someone had handed Riyad Mahrez a map, they would have been down 3 or 4-1 at half-time. It didn’t take long for City to find the third goal in the second half and again it looked almost ready for them to find the RPM that Real Madrid can’t and distance themselves.

But Madrid have Vinicius Jr.

We should pause here to also include Guardiola’s reaction not to Vinicius’ goal, but his dummy to start his charge towards the City area, because he obviously knew what was coming:

Okay, yes, Fernandinho is not a right back and he is three days older than the water. And yes, Aymeric Laporte takes, shall we say, an abstract route back to defending that he never comes within five meters of Vinicius. But all this only matters because it’s Vinicius Jr., who will always turn that kind of opportunity and space into a goal.

Once again City advanced like a lion to an antelope, should have scored more, but once again they opened up a two-goal lead through a bolt from Bernardo Silva. The 4-2 would not have ended the semifinal as a whole, but it would have been very comfortable. But this is Madrid, so they’re going to get a call. And they have Benzema.

It is important to note that Benzema had missed two penalties a few days earlier against Osasuna. So of course he was going to pull the Panenka, which is essentially pulling out your nuts and putting them on the table. And because he’s Benzema, he’s crazy the size of a globe (as some have suggested, it’s the kind of confidence and arrogance you can only have when you’re dating Rihanna and playing fair). This is a Champions League semi-final and his team is down by two and was second best on the whole field, idiot. This is not right.

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

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