Thursday, 26 February 2009

It's a different League

Yossi Benayoun's header brought Real Madrid's run of nine consecutive victories to a crashing halt as Liverpool took the lead at the Bernabéu in their last 16 Champions League encounter with Real Madrid.

The result was testament to Rafa Benítez's technical and tactical abilities, especially in cup ties. While Real Madrid started more brightly and played more fluidly, they crashed time and time again into Liverpool's carefully crafted defence.

A couple of early chances and a goal disallowed for offside were all Real had to show for in the first half, as the visitors slowly took control and even had the better of the period with Casillas keeping out shots from Torres and Benanyoun as well as a spectacular long-range effort from Xabi Alonso.

Juande Ramos brought Guti on for Marcelo after the break in an attempt to inject some fluidity into Real's attack, and perhaps hoping the Real Madrid veteran could find that killer pass that would unlock the Liverpool defence. It was all to no avail.

The side that had coolly slotted six goals past a hapless Betis in one half on the weekend, found Liverpool and the Champions League an altogether tougher proposition. Only long range shots from Robben and Higuaín troubled Pepe Reina, and not much at that.

With the game finely poised at 0-0, Heinze unnecessarily brought down Dirk Kuyt on the edge of the area. Fabio Aurelio curled in the resulting free kick and an unmarked Benayoun headed the ball past Casillas.

Expect two weeks of talk of "epic comebacks" from the press and the fact that everything is not lost. It's not an insurmountable task, but it will take several flashes of genius for Real Madrid to triumph at Anfield and move into the quarter finals.


caracoleo said...

A very objective report of the match. Don't know how you can remain so level headed. Most people are either demanding the team be lined up and shot, or insisting that at Anfield Liverpool will have to open up and play more offensive football.

If you ask me it was an extremely depressing display by Real Madrid. Inept, desperate and very immature.

The only positive note was the form of Pepe, who is simply the best defender in the world right now. I was also impressed with Ramos (not Juande) - if only he could have put in a few decent crosses!

Most of the other players were simply outclassed, to many people's surprise. Most Madridistas had insisted that individually Real Madrid had a far superior team. Amazing then, how they managed to lose nearly all their individual battles.

Gonzalo said...

That's why I did the report in the morning, rather than straight away.

Seriously though, I do try to be as objective as possible, and to make clear what is fact and what is my opinion. I think there's enough partisan blogs and even press articles (just think Spanish sports press) to go around without adding to the mix. That doesn't mean I didn't find yesterday's game both depressing and frustrating, especially after such a long wait for the Champions League to restart.

Let's face it, the whole thing does stem from the abysmal planning in the summer, and although Juande has made some important progress in the time he's been in charge, it has to be said the opposition has not been of sufficient calibre to really test Real Madrid.

Having said that, I do think Liverpool are beatable, even at Anfield, so it is not time to throw in the towel just yet.

kt said...

I know it's not real madrid but...

¿Le costó mucho adaptarse?
Lo que pienso es esto: Catalunya no es España, es otra cosa y eso hay que sentirlo. El Barça es otra historia. Cuando llegas aquí del Arsenal te sorprende ver a tanta gente, es un shock. Hay que vivirlo para entenderlo. En Inglaterra es otra mentalidad. Cuando salí de allí después de ocho años, estaba asombrado, pero después de ocho meses, cuando ya no me dolía la espalda, tenía que volver a ganar confianza y ganarme a la gente.

Does Thierry Henry mean the intensity of fan interest in Barcelona (and Spain generally I suppose) at training and on the street or something else?

caracoleo said...

Henry is just playing to the gallery, and just went a bit OTT.

He says Cataluña is not Spain, a politically correct statement that will obviously go down well at the Campo Nuevo. He then says that it is important to win the confidence of the fans. Well, political correctness is one way of going about it I suppose.

Another way would be to let your football do the talking.

Another matter - Anfield. Madridistas are all hoping that at home Liverpool will open up and play more attacking football. History shows that that won't happen. Benitez has never allowed such factors to influence his game plan. The ultimate pragmatist, if he has to bore every one for 90 minutes to win, he will.

And guess what? The KOP don't care. This is Anfield, not the Bernabeu guys.

Secondly, Real Madrid's main problem is not what Liverpool are cappable of or incapable of at Anfield. The main problem is that they don't have the ability to send out a team that can do a professional job at this level. And that's been the case for several years now. And the reason? Because this team is not by the coach, nor the sporting director.

This team is run by the Madrid press, and the powerful football agents who use the media to whip up support for their clients in the team, and in so doing, line their ever increasing pockets with more cash.

My hope is that this defeat will be so painful that Real Madrid - as Emilio Butragueño himself declared live on BBC radio, will be forced to analyse and restructure itself at all levels of the club.

Apologies for taking up so much column space...

Gonzalo said...

Take as much space as you need! That's the whole point of opening the blog up for comments.

The only way Rafa will open up his defence is if he falls behind - which means Real Madrid need to score two at Anfield - a very tall order

It's not so much the club is run by the press; rather that the average socio is heavily influenced by it (just like the average voter in any democracy) and that puts pressure on the club management. Obviously the fact that Calderon never really felt legitimised as president has meant that there has been very little strategic thinking at the club for the past three years - it's all day-to-day stuff.

caracoleo said...

OK, so it is indirectly run by the press, because they have influence over the socios. But hold on, Raul has just scored against Español, the man who barely did anything meaningful against Liverpool.

We all know what's going to be on the front of the newspapers tomorrow. This is just too much to bear.