Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Appetizer

Karim Benzema was a Beast against Rosenborg. 2 Great Goals.
.
.
So it was difficult to fly back from Manila, landing at 11pm, and thinking to myself that I was going to take a short nap to wake up at 4am to catch Real Madrid’s match vs. Rosenborg (for the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy) at 4am… via streaming.
.
Streaming hasn’t been very friendly to me this offseason… for some reason, my Sopcast links have been failing to show video, while Justin TV has sold out: kicking you out of the video link once 1000 viewers have been reached and offering to let you back in if you buy a premium account from them (thus the trauma of knowing of the goals we scored against Borussia, but not seeing them until way after the match).
.
It’s hard being in Asia and being a fan of Real Madrid. Showing up at work lacking sleep while nursing a headache isn’t fun… making this weekend’s match vs. Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday something I’m really looking forward to. But what can I say? I’m a diehard fan… so I just roll along with the punches and keep on praying that Florentino’s proposal to do afternoon matches during the winter would come to fruition, to allow his target audience, the likes of me (i.e. Asian Fans) better access to the greatest football club that ever existed.
.
.
Farewell to the old War Horse.
Salgado was a Warrior truly worthy of the White Shirt.
.
.
Michel Salgado, whose head I’ve been calling for for the last couple of years, waved goodbye to the Bernabeu in a moving tribute, walking onto the pitch with his daughters to a standing ovation as the 2 starting XIs gave him a guard of honor. The business of axing him from the team proved to be an ugly one, but I suppose that it was far better to buy out the last year of his contract (due financial compensation for him) and allow him to pick out the next/final destination for his fading professional football career. Salgado never complained about being benched or left out of squads as his age caught up to him nor did he even publicly castigate the club for what he could rightfully consider an unsavory way to let go of him. I salute him for his years of service, the great performances, and most of all, the honorable way by which he had conducted himself through these last years he’s had with the club. This little bit of this blog is my standing ovation to our ‘2’.
.
.
The midfield
Xabi Alonso looks great in white. The Whites look great with him too...
.
.
We played a heck of a game, I’d have to say…. Especially in the first half. We were attack minded, fluid and decisive. Traces of Pellegrini’s 4-2-2-2 are coming to fruition nicely. The center of the park was held together perfectly by Xabi Alonso and Lassana Diarra (an ugly detail of the match however was to see Lass in Sneijder’s ‘10’ in a clear move to forcibly push the poor Dutchman out). Xabi kept ball movement going without the pensiveness and constant hesitation that we saw so much of from Gago (and a bit from Guti as well) – calmly swinging the ball, left and right, backwards and forwards, keeping the game fluid and his team mates involved. Watch this Basque maestro work young Gago, and I’m sure you’ll learn plenty. The 2 held their position well and won the ball back with ease constantly through Xabi’s intelligent positioning and anticipation and Lass’ pit-bull-like tenacity. Lass was just Lass (bullying any non-Madrid player with the ball to surrender it to him) and more
.
.
Defense
We're still vulnerable on Defense... but Raul Albiol has been proving to be a good acquisition.
.
The center of defense clearly enjoyed the protection offered by the midfield. I have to say though, that in this pre-season, I’ve been greatly impressed by Raul Albiol and fully expect him to develop a very effective partnership with Pepe who in my view can develop into the Best Center Back in the world (a long way to go though,… but I do think the qualities are there). In Pellegrini’s 4-2-2-2, the fullbacks play an important role in the attack as the system can become too narrow especially if the opposing team parks the bus in front of goal. They are to roam on the wings to spread play around: and the fact that Arbeloa had a great shot at goal coming off the woodwork and Marcelo provided the assist for the first goal shows that they performed their tasks last night. If the Central Midfiled pair (Lass + Xabi Alonso) can provide adequate protection for the Centerbacks, then perhaps, the likes of Drenthe and Marcelo (defensively-poor, but attack-minded fullbacks) can fit into the system.
.
.
The Magic Square
The Magic Quartet / Fantastic 4 (Or maybe just the ‘Trident’ Plus Raul) were actually quite contained by the Rosenborg defense and midfield, giving them little space to surge forward. We didn’t see a lot of Kaka knifing through the defense with his runs as effectively as we saw him vs. Dortmund. Ditto for CR96 who really seems to be suffering from the Zidane syndrome. The obvious standout however was the French Beast Karim Benzema with his 2 ‘golazos’. The first goal was absolutely exquisite , which was received from Marcelo was an extremely tough shot to make but was made to look so easy: Control with one touch-turn and shoot. The shot wasn’t struck with so much power… but with just the right amount of pace with absolutely stunning accuracy considering the fact that he hardly had a look at goal. The 2nd goal was one right out of his highlight reel from Lyon: running at the keeper, defender or 2 around him, using his strength to ward them off with a power shot through to goal.
.
Raul’s goal reminded me of an article I once read of a manager criticizing Real Madrid’s tactical ineptitude some time back, questioning why is it that Real Madrid no longer takes corners looking for Raul at the nearpost where he has scored plenty of goals before… well…. There you are. Seems the guy was right.
.
.
Comebacks
One of the night's definite highlights that put a REAL smile on my face was to see Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Diarra V1.0 back on the pitch. It felt great to see the Bernebeu give them a rousing ovation.... one they truly, truly deserved. Van Nistelrooy still looks off-pace, but I have a great feeling that he will be scoring some really important goals for us this season. Diarra on the other hand looked comfortable and even looked good... I see him playing an important role for us this year after seeing us struggle without Lass on the pitch, having another ball-winning player of his calibre will be very important for us. These 2 guys will be the 'silent signings' which we have made that will prove to have a very huge impact for Real Madrid this coming season.
.
.
All in all, this game has been a great appetizer for the upcoming season. There is much reason for us to look forward to with just a few days to go… I can’t wait.

No comments:

Post a Comment