Monday, 28 January 2008

Breaking away

Real Madrid showed a refreshing lack of complacency and bags of self belief to beat Villareal and extend their lead at the top of the standings to 9 points. Contrast this with their closest rivals, Barcelona, who failed to hold onto their one-goal lead in Bilbao and ended up dropping two points. All the participants agree that the championship is not yet over (Real had an even bigger lead over Barcelona in 2004 and ended up throwing the league title away), but the way the players pick themselves up when things don't go their way is very encouraging.

Guti had a day to remember, providing added verticality to an already aggressive attack; however Robinho was the true star of the team with his clinical finishing on two occasions. Villareal for their part never flagged, giving the encounter added flavour and excitement, and they managed to pull the scoreline back twice, setting up a frantic last quarter of an hour.

Gago has benefited from Diarra's absence in the African Nations Cup and picked up his game impressively in recent weeks. Aside from his defensive efforts, which were many, he was also responsible for the assist to Sneijder which ended up in Real's winner, barely a minute after Villareal's second. The Dutchman had only just come on for Baptista, and the goal must have done his confidence no end of good, given the lacklustre string of performances in the past few months, following a very bright start to the season.

Simon Baskett, over at Reuters, argues that Real's successes this season are largely due to the 'old guard' and that the new signings have not yet made a significant contribution.

Villareal demonstrated that the 5-0 result earlier in the season was a mirage and they are worthy occupants of the 3rd spot in the league, but the 15 points separating them from the leaders are almost unprecedented at this stage of the season.

No comments: