Big misses keep Vinícius Júnior from thriving with Madrid


MADRID — Real Madrid players couldn’t hide their frustration after another big miss by Vinícius Júnior in front of the goal.

Sergio Ramos dropped to the ground at the other end of the field. Players watching from the stands stared at each other with incredulous looks on their faces. Marcelo turned to a teammate on the bench and spoke in an apparent attempt to explain what had just happened.

Vinícius Júnior again wasted a good performance with a bad miss that attracted most of the headlines following Madrid’s 3-1 win over Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday. Madrid advanced 4-1 on aggregate to return to the competition’s quarterfinals after two consecutive eliminations in the last 16.

Madrid was leading 1-0 in the 52nd minute at the Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium when the Brazilian forward made a great run from the back field and cleared a few defenders inside the other area before finding himself with only the goalkeeper to beat. But his close-range shot went just wide of the far post, prompting his teammates to lament.

One of them loudly yelled “nooo…” from the stands after the miss.

“It was disappointing that after a great play like that he couldn’t finish it,” said Ramos, who later converted a penalty kick prompted by the Brazilian to make it 2-0 and put Madrid on its way to the quarterfinals. “What was important is that he played a great match.”

The 20-year-old Vinícius Júnior was disappointed with the miss as well, grabbing the net and closing his eyes after momentum carried him into the back of the goal.

“I missed it by just a bit,” Vinícius Júnior said. “I’m sure that next time I’m going to score.”

But the misses have marked Vinícius Júnior’s stint with Madrid since he arrived as a teenager in 2018. His skills were evident from the start but he often struggled to turn great plays into goals. His lack of efficiency in the area was a big reason why he failed to become an undisputed starter on the team coached by Zinedine Zidane.

Fans felt it was just a matter of time before he would begin capitalizing on his talent, and that things would improve as he matured, but as time went by the big misses in front of the goal continued to compound.

He has been getting more chances recently because of injuries to players such as Eden Hazard, but he still has only 13 goals to show for in his more than 100 appearances with Madrid.

“I’ll always keep trying even after a miss,” the Brazilian said. “That’s me, I’ll always keep trying. I’ve been working hard and I’ve been improving. Things will be getting better match after match.”

Vinícius Júnior still enjoys the support of his teammates, and a lot of them tried to cheer him up after the miss against Atalanta. Lucas Vázquez yelled from the other side of the field and congratulated him on the effort. The bench players also tried to help by saying some encouraging words from afar.

Zidane said he couldn’t complain about the Brazilian’s performance.

“Vini did well, particularly in the move in which he won the penalty,” Zidane said. “We know that when he has the ball and has space he can make all the difference with his pace, and that is exactly what he did. He always looks to help the team.”

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