Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has endured a bad season for Real Madrid, but he played his role perfectly in the eyes of head coach Carlo Ancelotti when it mattered most.
Carlo Ancelotti hailed Hernandez for his decisive role in Real Madrid’s 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League. Hernandez scored a late, game-winning goal to seal Real Madrid’s place in the semifinals.
Hernandez only played against Atletico Madrid because Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale both were out with injuries, leaving Real Madrid short of attacking options. Hernandez missed three scoring chances in the second half before hitting his mark with just two minutes remaining in normal time.
“He was a fantastic solution because he played really well with a lot of intensity,” Ancelotti told Sky Sports after the game. “He deserved it because he hasn’t played a lot this season, but when I told him to play he was ready. He was professional and I’m happy for him.”
Hernandez, 26, has struggled at Real Madrid while on a season-long loan from Manchester United. The Mexican striker only has scored six goals in 27 games this season, and both his confidence and form have been at “rock bottom” for much of the campaign. But things changed for Hernandez earlier this month.
Hernandez played 90 minutes and scored in Real Madrid’s La Liga (Spanish first division) win over Eibar on April 11. Benzema then suffered a knee injury in last week’s goal-less draw with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, giving Hernandez another opportunity to play. Hernandez went the distance again and assisted a goal in Real Madrid’s win over Malaga on Saturday.
Bale hurt his calf in that win, creating serious problems for Ancelotti ahead of Real Madrid’s biggest game of the season. Hernandez solved those of his coach, teammates and himself by tapping home Cristiano’s pass with Real Madrid’s Champions League fate hanging in the balance.
Thumbnail photo via Andres Kudacki/The Associated Press