Football Features

“A Titan is stirring in the Spanish capital” – how Thibaut Courtois set the stage for Real Madrid to beat Getafe

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 17:22, 4 January 2020

In a stalwart afternoon of football, Real Madrid beat Getafe 0-3 thanks to an impressive goalkeeping performance.

Thibaut Courtois’ Real Madrid career did not begin very well. The preamble was superb as he had just performed excellently at the 2018 World Cup, winning the Golden Gloves award, being named The Best goalkeeper by FIFA and looking delighted to return to Madrid and be close to his family. But on the pitch? Oh dear.

Courtois replaced Keylor Navas, a hugely popular figure in the dressing room and with the fans, as Madrid’s no. 1 goalkeeper. He struggled to look anything like the colossus he did in Russia and even for Chelsea. He regularly looked like a weak point, and luck rarely followed him. His first Clásico ended in a 5-1 defeat, Ajax massacred him in the Champions League. Things weren’t going well.

A summer break saw him began 2019/20 looking similarly ropey. He couldn’t keep a clean sheet to save his life and so often looked weak. A hideous display against Brugge in the Champions League where he got hooked at half-time (officially because of injury) and then lost 1-0 to Mallorca in his return match was the nadir, and with another Clásico coming up, he must have been worried.

But then the Clásico was delayed (for ridiculous political reasons) and suddenly, with that pressure lifted, Courtois found himself again. The three games after the postponed Clásico saw him rack up four straight clean sheets. Suddenly he was a reliable figure in goal. Hell, even in attack as it was his towering header that forced a stoppage time equaliser away to Valencia. And when the Clásico rolled around, Courtois was exemplary and kept a solid clean sheet for Los Blancos.

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So then we come to today, away to Getafe off the back of two straight 0-0’s. Courtois the only player to emerge with any real credibility from those two failures knew he would have to be on his toes against the dangerous Madrid side. And despite that pressure weighing down on him, Courtois was absolutely mesmeric in the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

The Belgian dominated his box with confidence, making sure Getafe’s set-pieces couldn’t hurt Los Blancos. But mostly he was just in superlative shot-stopping form. Whenever Getafe worked their way past the Madrid defence, which they did fairly often, Courtois would appear suddenly in their field of vision to shut down the attack.

Getafe would break by Raphael Varane and Eder Militao, look to be home free, and there he was. This gigantic long-limbed monstrosity bearing down on them with terrifying confidence. Even if you could fire it away from his steadily increasing in mass torso, one of his limbs was bound to be able to react and flick it to safety.

This was not a pretty match. Both teams made more fouls than they had shots on goal (Getafe 27 fouls to 15 shots, Madrid 14 to 9). It was bitty and brutal, and Getafe were the better team. They moved sharper between the lines and defended with greater awareness and sharpness. However they just could not get by the incredible Courtois, and it was so fitting that Madrid took the lead after a refereeing blunder from his opposite number David Soria. It wasn’t enough that we could see Courtois’ magnificence, we had to be given a stark example of how it can all go so very wrong for a goalkeeper.

Ultimately Madrid won 0-3 and the glory will probably go to Raphael Varane (who scored one and forced the own goal) or maybe even Gareth Bale for his delightful pass that played in Fede Valverde who set up Luka Modric for the third goal. But the man who truly set the table for Real Madrid to move to the top of the table was Thibaut Courtois.

It’s taken a year and a half, and he’s got a long way to go in order to pay off his transfer fee and become a Madrid legend, but Thibaut Courtois is finally starting to look like the goalkeeper Real Madrid signed to upgrade on Keylor Navas. He’s well placed to reclaim the Zamora trophy that he won back-to-back with Atlético Madrid in 2012/13 and 2013/14 (no ‘keeper with at least 10 starts has conceded less than his 9 in 16). Once more a Titan is stirring in the Spanish capital, and his name is Thibaut.