Real Madrid 1 RB Leipzig 1: Vinicius goal sees lucky Real scrape through 2-1 on aggregate

Well, it was far from convincing.

Real Madrid made it through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League but the 14-time champions were outplayed for large parts of the game against RB Leipzig.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side, 1-0 up from the first leg, struggled for control and, despite going ahead against the run of play through Vinicius Junior, were soon pegged back and then were hanging on to avoid a surprise exit.

Leipzig will rue missed chances and hit the bar in the closing moments. For Real, they’ll be breathing a sigh of relief after it ended 1-1 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate.

How lucky were Real?

There was a huge sigh of relief as the final whistle blew.

Madrid have made a habit in recent seasons of only performing in patches of their Champions League knockout ties. But this game had much too much of the lethargy and confusion that can affect them on nights like this, and not nearly enough of the individual genius and inspiration that so often sees them through.

Los Blancos had only really one moment to celebrate on the night, the fantastic counter-attacking goal which was brilliantly made by Jude Bellingham and emphatically finished by Vinicius.

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Orban celebrates his equaliser (PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images)

Madrid’s hearts were in their mouths as Dani Olmo’s 92nd-minute floated lob arced over Andriy Lunin towards the far top corner, but bounced on top of the crossbar and away to safety.

There was still time for more Leipzig attacking and frantic Madrid defending in their own box. It left the feeling that Carlo Ancelotti’s team had been fortunate to escape, just as they had been with a controversially disallowed goal in the first leg in Germany last month. They conceded 34 shots across the two legs.

Many of Madrid’s recent victories in this competition have often featured games when they rode their luck at times. But they will have to play a lot, lot better if they are to go much further this year.

Why did Real struggle?

Ancelotti went safety first with his line-up, picking five midfielders and just Vinicius as the lone attacker by trade.

Out of position, Madrid had three players (Aurelien Tchouameni, Toni Kroos and Eduardo Camavinga) narrow across the centre, to close up that area where Dani Olmo and Xavi Simons like to work. It meant Madrid had the majority of possession, but struggled to move the ball forward effectively.

Their midfielders had very little to aim at up the pitch — Jude Bellingham, on the day when he received a two-game ban for abusing a referee, also stayed deep from his false nine role, and Vinicius was generally disconnected from his team-mates. The last play of the first half was a cross into the Leipzig area, with only defenders Dani Carvajal and Antonio Rudiger to aim for, and the ball was cleared anyway before it reached them.

Their xG for the first 45 minutes of 0.09 was their lowest so far this season and there were whistles from the Bernabeu as the teams went to the break.

Even when Rodrygo replaced Camavinga at half-time, Madrid struggled to really make chances. It was as if the message from Ancelotti, and Madrid’s confidence that they were in control of the tie even with just a narrow advantage on the scoreboard, kept them playing with the handbrake on for too long.

What was so impressive about Leipzig?

Lots of ‘smaller’ teams come to the Bernabeu on big Champions League nights, look impressive in the first half, make some decent opportunities to score, miss them, and then fold when Madrid take the lead.

Marco Rose’s team did the first part of the plan really well, they got their playmakers Olmo and Simons on the ball in dangerous areas, and their pacy attackers Benjamin Sesko and Lois Openda regularly troubled Madrid’s centre-backs.

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Simons was a constant threat (David Ramos/Getty Images)

But when Bellingham and Vinicius split them open and made it 2-0 on aggregate, Leipzig did not follow the usual script. Instead, they pushed even further up the pitch, and continued to cause big problems, with Olmo and Simons both outstanding.

Los Blancos were rattled. The visitors continued to find spaces and to make chances, with Andriy Lunin saving from Sesko and substitute Yussuf Poulsen, and Orban sending another header just wide. Such confident and daring attacking showed why Ancelotti had been so cautious with his starting XI, and also why Leipzig had troubled Manchester City at times in both group games in the autumn.

When is the quarter-final draw?

Real will be able to plot their path to the final when the draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals are made on Friday, March 15th at 11am.

What next for Real Madrid?

Sunday, March 10: Celta Vigo (H), La Liga, 5.30pm GMT, 12.30pm ET

Real will be hoping to maintain or extend their seven-point lead at the top of the La Liga table. Bellingham will be unavailable due to suspension after his outburst at referee Jesus Gil Manzano in last week’s draw with Valencia, but they should have enough against a side battling against relegation

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(Top image: Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

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