The Spanish-Moroccan player scored the first goal against Braga and dominated the midfield

Brahim takes charge and leads Real Madrid into Champions League last 16

PHOTO/AFP/PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU - El delantero español del Real Madrid Brahim Díaz celebra la anotación del primer gol durante el partido de fútbol del grupo C de la Liga de Campeones de la UEFA entre el Real Madrid CF y el SC Braga en el estadio Santiago Bernabéu de Madrid el 8 de noviembre de 2023
photo_camera PHOTO/AFP/PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU - Real Madrid's Spanish striker Brahim Diaz celebrates scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League group C soccer match between Real Madrid CF and SC Braga at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on November 8, 2023

32. That's Real Madrid's new magic number. That's how many Champions League group stages the club has played and in all 32 they have qualified for the next round. Perhaps nobody remembers the 14th Champions League, as Piqué says, but if they don't recognise that heroism, they will at least have to accept that every season the club writes the history of a competition that, instead of honouring it, puts its triumphs in the background whenever it can.  

Against Braga, Real Madrid needed a point. And many players needed a well-deserved rest. Bellingham failed tests for shoulder problems and Ancelotti decided to leave him on the bench. Nacho, Lucas and Brahim were chosen by the Italian to rest the usual starters. Kepa's injury in the warm-up meant that Lunin, who had not played since August, was back in the starting line-up.  

The Bernabeu wanted a spectacle and Real Madrid took it upon themselves to ignite the crowd, albeit with an early upset. Lucas committed a penalty in the box that Lunin saved with a good save. The defence was again unsafe. Lucas took another Braga player to the ground in the box which could have been the second penalty in favour of the Lusitanians.  

PHOTO/AFP/THOMAS COEX - El delantero brasileño del Real Madrid Rodrygo celebra con sus compañeros el tercer gol de su equipo durante el partido de fútbol del grupo C de la Liga de Campeones de la UEFA entre el Real Madrid CF y el SC Braga en el estadio Santiago Bernabéu de Madrid el 8 de noviembre de 2023
PHOTO/AFP/THOMAS COEX - Real Madrid's Brazilian forward Rodrygo celebrates with teammates scoring his team's third goal during the UEFA Champions League group C soccer match between Real Madrid CF and SC Braga at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on November 8, 2023

In the midst of this entertaining scramble, Brahim was in charge of getting the ball to his foot and driving it from one side to the other. Inside passes, runs, runs, one-twos... the recital was so good that he crowned it with the first goal to celebrate his recent decision to play for Morocco in Regragui's next call-ups. The Spanish-Moroccan controlled the White attack well escorted by Kroos, Camavinga and Valverde.   

 

Braga were drifting away from Lunin's goal and, after the break, barely finished their attacking moves. In the 58th and 60th minutes, Vinicius and Rodrygo respectively scored the two goals that sealed the game. The latter went to celebrate the goal with Ancelotti, in gratitude for his confidence when the ball wasn't going in. Vini Jr celebrated with the crowd, but the murmur was present when he missed because the breeding ground left by the Brazilian is starting to create problems. Maybe he needs to talk to Puyol, or maybe the club needs to spend more time moulding his temperament to make that short fuse grow longer.  

PHOTO/AFP/PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU - El entrenador italiano del Real Madrid Carlo Ancelotti abraza al delantero brasileño del Real Madrid Rodrygo mientras abandona el campo para ser sustituido durante el partido de fútbol del grupo C de la UEFA Champions League entre el Real Madrid CF y el SC Braga en el estadio Santiago Bernabéu de Madrid el 8 de noviembre
PHOTO/AFP/PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU - Real Madrid's Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti hugs Real Madrid's Brazilian striker Rodrygo as he leaves the pitch to be substituted during the UEFA Champions League group C soccer match between Real Madrid CF and SC Braga at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on Nov. 8

Vini Jr celebrated with the crowd, but the murmur was present when he missed because the breeding ground left by the Brazilian is starting to create problems. Maybe he needs to talk to Puyol, or maybe the club needs to spend more time moulding his temperament to make that short fuse grow longer.  

The game ended with five new players and a full complement of changes, which is unusual for Ancelotti. Home-grown Nico Paz was the standout performer, although that left Arda Güler, the new Real sensation awaiting his turn after injury, without a debut.  

PHOTO/AFP/THOMAS COEX - El delantero brasileño del Real Madrid Vinicius Junior celebra el segundo gol de su equipo durante el partido de fútbol del grupo C de la Liga de Campeones de la UEFA entre el Real Madrid CF y el SC Braga en el estadio Santiago Bernabéu de Madrid el 8 de noviembre de 2023
PHOTO/AFP/THOMAS COEX - Real Madrid's Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League group C soccer match between Real Madrid CF and SC Braga at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on November 8, 2023

The match puts Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League and the eternal doubt of what Ancelotti will do with players like Brahim, whom he embraced after the change, but who is unlikely to play on Saturday against Valencia. An injustice similar to that of Ceballos two seasons ago, which the Italian acknowledged. And the fact is that the Real Madrid coach likes to use his bodyguard in big games. This year, Kroos and Modric have made way for Tchouaméni or Camavinga, and even Mendy has incomprehensibly taken the place of Fran García. A motivated bench can win games and the wait until the last 16 in February will be long if there is not time for everyone.

More in Sports