When 13th-placed Las Palmas traveled to the Bernabeu on Wednesday, Real Madrid had to think they’d be in for an easy three points. Surely manager Zinedine Zidane thought along those lines, as he fielded a somewhat weakened side for the midweek match. Casemiro didn’t dress, and the likes of Karim Benzema, Lucas Vasquez and James Rodriguez all started on the bench.
Really, it should have been smooth sailing for Real Madrid. But Las Palmas put up one hell of a fight and almost flipped the script entirely, if not for a late rally from Cristiano Ronaldo and the Merengues. The train came off the rails early in the second half after Real Madrid went down a man. It was an important man, too.
Gareth Bale flew off the handle and earned himself a sending off after this:
Reduced to 10 men and without their best defensive midfielder, Real Madrid fell apart. Two egregious errors — a handball from Sergio Ramos in the box and a misguided adventure for Keylor Navas — allowed Las Palmas to capitalize twice and push their lead to 3-1. It looked like the upset was on the cards.
Zidane pulled the plug on resting some of his regulars and Benzema, Vazquez and James all joined the fray. Along with his reinforcements, Ronaldo turned it on. The Real Madrid talisman cut the lead to one in the 86th minute on a marginal penalty claim. (To be fair, Ramos’ handball in the box was equally questionable).
It was a rescue mission and Ronaldo pulled it off. He and Real Madrid won’t be pleased with the result, but they’ll certainly take one point rather than zero. To make matters worse, the dropped points and Barcelona’s win earlier put Real Madrid’s bitter rival provisionally atop the table.
What looked like a runaway victory for Real Madrid in the La Liga title chase is now anything but. It’d be even dicier if Ronaldo didn’t save their bacon against Las Palmas, however.