There was both euphoria and deep regret for Real Madrid on Sunday night; a strange, bittersweet sensation after stumbling to a 2-2 draw with Sevilla. At once it wrenched the fate of La Liga out of their hands, and yet also ensured they are still firmly in the fight.
Eden Hazard’s accidental 95th-minute equaliser was already enough of a twist at the end of a torturous week for the Belgian forward, heavily criticised by fans and media alike after laughing with his former Chelsea team-mates in midweek.
Madrid, knocked out of the Champions League in west London, knew they had to win four from four to win La Liga, but failed at the first hurdle of their sprint finish. Last season, like a machine, they won 10 matches in a row to beat Barcelona to the title, but this year they don’t have the energy left in them.
The pause for the coronavirus allowed Zinedine Zidane’s team to find a second wind, that they badly need now. A defeat by Sevilla would have left them third and relying on both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona slipping up, but Hazard’s heel deflected in Toni Kroos’s low drive deep into stoppage time.
Not only did that goal put them back ahead of the Catalans on head-to-head, but means Madrid need Atletico to draw, instead of lose, to potentially overtake them.
Snatching a draw, then, from the jaws of victory, with La Liga left as it was before the weekend began, as the top four butted heads.
Having seen Barcelona and Atletico share a stalemate at Camp Nou, Zidane’s side spent 24 hours dreaming of going top, favourites for the title until they started to actually play.
Ronald Koeman did not push Barcelona on the attack as forcefully as he should have on Saturday, while Atletico coach Diego Simeone went all-in on the draw, banking on Real slipping up in one of their final four fixtures.
Madrid reacted in the second half and Marco Asensio drilled the hosts level just over a minute after coming off the bench, but a clumsy handball by Eder Militao allowed Ivan Rakitic to put Sevilla back in front from the penalty spot.
Of course, it wasn’t that simple. The officials didn’t spot Militao’s offence and Karim Benzema raced through at the other end, brought down by the rash Bono in Sevilla’s box.
Article continues below