Real Madrid’s faith in Chicharito pays off with a place in the Champions League semifinals

Javier Hernández was brought to Real Madrid for one reason: his insane ability to find space in front of goal. That’s not a knock on the striker. While it seems easy, and he’s had the tag “poacher” insultingly attached to him, there would be a lot more good strikers out there if anyone could do it.

Chicharito always, somehow and some way, manages to get open. He makes sure the ball has a route to him. No matter how he appears to be playing in other facets of his game, he usually finds a way to score. Two of those three are his job: get open and score. The middle one — getting the ball — is the job of his teammates, but one they can’t accomplish without his help..

Who is more equipped to get Chicharito the ball than Real Madrid? Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodríguez, Isco, Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos and Marcelo take care of that. Literally all Chicharito has to do is what he does best – get open and wait for someone else to do the rest.

On Wednesday, that’s exactly what he did. With Real Madrid and Atlético scoreless in the 88th minute, Chicharito pulled away from a defender and waited 10 yards from goal. All the while, Ronaldo took on one defender, then another defender, then cut across Atlético’s penalty box. He cut the Atleti defense to pieces, then passed.

And there was Chicharito. One swing of the leg toward the empty net Ronaldo had created, and the Mexican had handed Real Madrid a 1-0 win, its first win over Atlético in eight tries, and a return to the Champions League semifinals.

Real Madrid won.

It defeated its bitter crosstown rivals.

The club is on its way back to the Champions League semifinals.

And all of that was because of Chicharito.

There wasn’t anything fancy about what Chicharito did. After all, anyone can stand and wait for Ronaldo to get them the balll. That’s not something to be lauded. But getting away from professional defenders isn’t really that easy. It sure as hell isn’t when those are Atlético defenders. And to do it time and time again, against a variety or opponents, at the highest level of the game, and, today, that the most dramatic of moments; at some point, that’s a skill. And few people possess that skill like Chicharito.

When you play striker for Real Madrid, the job isn’t especially complicated, and the club knows that. It knows all you need to do is get open and let Ronaldo and Co. find you. You don’t necessarily have to have the skill set of Karim Benzema to excel. It’s a luxury afforded a team with as many brilliant playmakers as Real Madrid, even if finding a player like Chicharito, is still more difficult than it seems.

Get open, wait for a brilliant player to get you the ball and put into the back of the net. It’s the Chicharito special. And it has Real Madrid semifinal-bound.


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