Monday, 10 November 2008

Real needs four from Higuaín to win

There is a school of thought that holds that the only objective in football is to score more goals than the opposition. Real Madrid's performance against Málaga was an exemplar of this, coming back after being down in the match three times, playing one man down for all of the second half, and still managing to win the game with all four goals scored by the same man: Gonzalo Higuaín.

Last time a Real Madrid player scored four goals in the same match was two years ago (almost to the day) when Van Nistelrooy bagged all four against Osasuna.

Diego Armando Maradona, Argentina's recent appointment as head coach of the national side, had earlier told El Pipa Higuaín that if he wanted to make his team he had to become "more involved" in games. Higuaín must have taken his words to heart, as the great man watched from the stands in the Bernabéu.

Málaga played some great one-touch football, ably assisted by Real Madrid's hapless defence. It is astonishing to think that virtually the same line-up that conceded the least number of goals last season (thirty-six) has now let in sixteen in ten games. The first came after a mere six minutes, as Eliseu toyed with Marcelo on the left wing, played it back from the touchline and then picked up the rebound to score.

Two minutes later Real were on equal terms as Higuaín found the ball almost rebounding from his boot into the back of the net following a save from Málaga goalkeeper Arnau.

More defensive shambles were at the heart of Málaga's second goal, especially from Heinze, who seemed to allow the ball to go past him and through to Baha for the goal, when he could have easily cleared it.

One again Higuaín pulled the home team back, this time from the penalty spot, following a handball in the area. Though the Argentinian is not a natural pick for taking spot kicks (Van Nistelrooy, Raúl and Van der Vaart are preferred by Schuster), his heroics in the Madrid derby last month meant that it was he who took the responsibility (that and the fact that Raúl was on the bench and Van Nistelrooy could be out of action for at least a couple of months after aggravating a knock on his knee -however, Van der Vaart was on the pitch).

With four goals scored, the half was not yet over when Sergio Ramos decided incomprehensibly to stamp on Eliseo while the Málaga player was on the ground following an earlier tackle. The result was his eight dismissal as a Real Madrid player.

Schuster brought on Salgado for Sneijder after the break and Málaga scented the chance of a famous victory. They must have thought they were there when twenty minutes from time Gago bundled a Málaga player over for a penalty which Apoño converted.

But it was not to be, as Higuaín responded with a superb effort from outside the area barely a minute later and then followed it up with his fourth of the night from the penalty spot. Strictly speaking, his final goal was not a penalty kick, as Arnau saved it and Higuaín put away the rebound. There was also the whiff of a dive by Higuaín for the penalty award, but that wasn't going to stop him celebrating.

The plan was to put behind the disappointment of the loss to Juventus in midweek by putting together a convincing performance against Málaga and follow it up with a win over lower division Real Unión on Tuesday. Morale was perhaps bolstered by the "epic" nature of the comeback, but it does nothing to allay the fears for the erratic way the squad is defending.

Adding to those fears is the growing number of players out with injuries. As well as Van Nistelrooy, Robben is out for up to six weeks, De la Red is out for an indefinite period following his loss of consciousness last week, and Diarra picked up a knock in the dying minutes of the Málaga game, while Pepe is expected to return for the Copa del Rey game on Tuesday.


madridista said...

Shambolic defensive display but no more than you'd expect with Cannavaro, Heinze and Marcelo at the back. Van Nistelrooy's definitely out for 2 months so Real need a striker. There's talk floating around of Mario Gomez ! A decent player no doubt but Real Madrid class ? I do wonder who else they can get though. Here's a thought. They need an instinctive goal scorer who has to be able to hit the ground running, why not someone who's familiar with the Bernebau and it's environs ? There's a chap in the north-east of England who seems to fit the bill. Wouldn't cost the earth either. Could play champions league even. And, I repeat. Who else can they get ?

Anonymous said...

Hit the ground running till he pulls a muscle you mean? Do you think Robben needs some company at physio?
What has happened to RM defence, it's the same as last year?? They never seem to close down in mid field anymore, and opponents pass through like butter.