The saga surrounding Denis Cheryshev’s eligibility overshadowed Real Madrid’s 3-1 win at Cadiz in the Copa del Rey last 32 on Wednesday.
With Rafa Benitez understandably keen on restoring momentum, the Coach kept the faith in many of his first-team personnel.
Nacho and Pepe retained their places in central defence, but there were new faces at both full-back positions in Alvaro Arbeloa and Cheryshev. In midfield, Casemiro partnered Marcos Llorente – the only Blancos cantera – while James Rodriguez, Isco and Lucas Vazquez supported lone striker Jese.
The last meeting between the two sides came in La Liga during the 2005-06 campaign, when Madrid ran out 3-1 winners thanks to goals from Roberto Carlos, David Beckham and Robinho.
There had been confusion prior to the game over whether Cheryshev was eligible to play, given he appeared to have incurred a one-match ban for three yellow cards in the Copa as a Villarreal player last season.
Los Blancos consequently risked expulsion from the tournament, but the Russian nonetheless went on to fire his side ahead after just three minutes as he met James’ pinpoint square pass in the box and blasted a finish home on the half-volley.
The rest of the first half was a rather forgettable affair, although Cadiz did come close to pulling a goal back not long after, Wilson Cuero breaking clear of the Madrid defence but failing to beat Casilla from point-blank range.
As reports of Cheryshev’s ineligibility filtered into Ramon de Carranza, Benitez was forced into an awkward change after just 45 seconds of the restart as he replaced the winger with Mateo Kovacic.
The focus inevitably turned away from the action on the pitch, but that did not stop Madrid from sealing the victory with two Isco goals, the midfielder firstly chesting down Casemiro’s raking pass and dinking a finish past Pol Balleste, before turning home a defence-splitting James ball.
Madrid may have taken a commanding away advantage in the tie, but it remains to be seen whether they will be expelled from the competition, with substitute Borja Mayoral’s red card in last season’s Copa del Rey Juvenil final also coming under the microscope.
Cadiz 1-3 Real Madrid
Cheryshev 3, Isco 65, 74
Cadiz: Pol, Cristian, Aridane (Servando 71), Josete, Tomas (Kike 46); Garrido, Mantecon; Salvi, Lolo, Pavez; Cuero (Guiza 71)
Real Madrid: Casilla; Arbeloa, Nacho, Pepe (Tejedo 88), Cheryshev; Casemiro, Llorente; James (Lienhart 78), Isco, Vazquez; Jese
Referee: De Burgos Bengoetxea