Monday, 2 March 2009

Imperfect Ten

Real Madrid recorded their tenth consecutive league victory on an away trip to Espanyol. This result, combined with Barcelona's inability to hold onto a two-goal lead at Atlético Madrid the following evening, puts Real four points behind the leaders. It's hard to believe that this difference was twelve points a mere three weeks ago.

And yet, while much credit has to be given to Juande for turning the team around defensively (3 goals conceded in the last 11 matches), there is still much work to do to make Real Madrid the well-oiled machine in attack that the individual quality of its players would suggest.

The first half saw both sides "abuse" the midfield to the exclusion of both areas. Sneijder, who hasn't had the best of seasons, did not really perform well as playmaker, wasting innumerable passes to his colleagues up front, with Huntelaar looking especially isolated. Fortunately for the visitors, Lass swept up most of Espanyol's attacks, turning in another impressive display.

What Lass could not mop up, Pepe and Cannavaro did, with Casillas making the odd miraculous save that no longer gets headlines (he was much criticised early in the season for a few uncharacteristic mistakes).

Juande changed tack in the second half, bringing Guti in for the ineffectual Sneijder and Marcelo in for Higuaín to try to give the squad some balance and some width. Raúl tracked back to help out in midfield and the changes injected a little more urgency to Real's play.

Nevertheless, it was a whole 67 minutes before the deadlock was finally broken, as Guti was brought down outside the Espanyol area. The veteran Real Madrid midfielder, who recently announced he will leave the club in 2011 at the latest, slotted a perfect free kick into the top left hand corner of Espanyol's goal.

Five minutes later, Raúl effectively finished off the game as he timed his run perfectly to latch onto a half-mishit Marcelo cross and put the ball beyond goalkeeper Kameni.

As in midweek, the team who made the least number of errors won the game. Unlike then, this time that team was Real Madrid.


Anonymous said...

Didn't see the game, a personal protest following the Liverpool debacle. Promised myself not to watch this shit anymore. I'll probably be back watching these cabrones again next weekend.

Guti and Raul on the score sheet, with Raul tracking back to help out in midfield. God, how depressing. Can Raul defend? No. Can Raul organise midfield? What a joke. So why?

Clearly it is a response to his pathetic match on Wednesday against a real football team. Another attempt on his part to show his value in this team by seeing more of the ball after not getting a sniff of it the other day. But to what effect?

Does he want us to think that he is some sort of Baggio, or Totti or Del Piero? He simply hasn't got the footballing ability of those players.

So 2-0 then. Well done Juande for at least getting some things right. You won't be with us next season, and that's probably for the best. And still no trace of that team some Madridistas claim can win at Anfield.

Gonzalo said...

Caracoleo, I feel your frustration, I really do. Hence my reasons for not getting all euphoric about the fact that Real have won 10 in a row.

Having said that I do think Real can win at Anfield, if only because Liverpool is not playing the kind of football you would associate with their position in the Premiership either. They have the advantage, of course, and, in Rafa, someone who knows all too well how to set out his stall to defend a lead, but it's by no means a foregone conclusion.

On Raul I'll not get into the discussion as to whether he should start as many games as he does - I'll only say that, in this particular game, his contribution in the second half did help to give his side more balance and connected up the two halves that were just not communicating in the first half. Hence I assume it was more to do with Juande's half-time talk and less with his own desire to see more of the ball - but who knows?