Tuesday, January 12, 2010

White Storm




A Man-of-the-Match Performance yet AGAIN for Pipita

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For those who were expecting a gameblog to be posted after last sunday night's match: I'd like to offer my apologies. The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak: after going to bed at earlier to catch the match at 2am here in Singapore, I consider myself fortunate enough to have been awoken from my slumber just in time to catch Higuain's superb opener (I flicked the TV on about 4 minutes into the match / 4 minutes before his 'golazo').
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I also wanna offer my prayers to the National Football team of Togo following their horrific bout with madness in Angola, which had cost them senseless loss of 2 colleagues. Our prayers go out to their colleague (the backup goalkeeper) who remains in critical condition.
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Now onto the match...
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Last night, we hosted a Mallorca team that were looking to validate themselves and prove to the world that their position among Spain's Top 4 on the table was no fluke. People had forewarned us about how good this Mallorca team was thanks to the brilliance of their manager Gregorio Manzano who has kept his club from the jaws of relegation despite the annual loss of their best players in their ownership's struggle to avert the club's financial meltdown. The people who made such warnings however, had also forgotten to mention that Mallorca's great record, is pretty much down to their very impressive home record and not their 'road warrior' reputation. And that was exactly what Real Madrid showed last night.
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Dealing with the Losses
For 90 minutes ++ last night, Mallorca faced the White Storm on the Bernabeu pitch that consisted of Snow, 53,000+ spectators who braved the cold and Manuel Pellegrini's Men in White. Manuel Pellegrini it seems has completely shrugged off the loss of 2 critical elements to what has been a defensively-efficient unit thus far. Nevermind the loss of Pepe and a mostly unfit Ezequel Garay who skipped training due to injuries for most of the week: the Chilean also had to face the hyper-counterattacking islanders without his midfield pitbull (Lass Diarra due to Card Accumulation), his prototype Diarra V1.0 (African Cup of Nations) and his Defensive Bad Boy Sergio Ramos (Card Accumulation). He nonchalantly switched the back 4 to horrify Madridisimo by reverting Marcelo to Left Back as the solid Arbeloa (who played well yet again) deputized for 'Tarzan'.
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We were also all surprised by Pellegrini when he decided to replace Lass not with Granero, but with Lady Gago, completing the midfield with the just-recovered-from-a-knock Van Der Vaart and the returning Kaka who were the supply line for CR96 and Pipita with a lineup that looked like:
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-----------Casillas-------------
Arbeloa-Albiol-Garay-Marcelo
---Gago-Xabi Alonso-VDV---
------------Kaka--------------
--------CR96-Pipita-----------
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Performances
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The result was a White Blitzkrieg of Mallorca's goal. The islanders faced a White Storm of attack after attack down their gullet as the pacy-Ronaldo and the in-the-mood Pipita went after them with the aid of the just-returned Kaka (who was clearly rusty and needs more games to return to full match fitness). The boys' effort was rewarded very quickly with a stunning left-footed shot from Gonzalo Higuain that found the top corner of Dudu Aouate's goal 8 minutes into the match: it was a shot that oozed the type of class and confidence most Madridistas who saw Pipita as a grow up in front of their eyes craved to see. We are truly, truly seeing the lost boy who ended up in Fabio Capello's squad years ago, turning into a legitimately menacing World-Class Striker. To the Real Madrid management out looking for Bred-in-Madrid Balon D'Or Winner: look VERY closely at this guy. I love David Villa, I like David Silva... but please consider very carefully what happens to our #20 when you guys go shopping this summer. Yet again, Pipita, with his 'golazo', his assist to Granero and overall persistence in attack won him Man of the Match honors in my book.
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We're all wondering however what happened to Cristiano Ronaldo last night (with his slew of blown chances)... perhaps there's a bit of rust or even giddiness from the 96m man: I can't help but recall a commercial that is currently being shown on TV here in Singapore ... and can't help thinking what a load of rubbish he was talking about in that video, especially after seeing him play in 90 minutes strugging to re-calibrate his shooting boots to score...
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I'm more forgiving to the just-returned Kaka, who showed us some moments of brilliance, jetting past defenders with his trademark accelleration, making passes and even taking a few shots. All in all it was a game where he logged in the much-needed game minutes to shake off the accumulated rust from his injuries.
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Pellegrini's gamble to give minutes to the weeping-at-home-when-not-playing Gago also paid off: as we saw none of his ball-tapping routine last night. Instead, together with Xabi Alonso, he pressured Mallorca's midfield and helped a lot in moving the ball around with simple, yet effective and elegant touches. It was a performance that deserved a pat on the back, even for the for-some-time-now non supporter/harsh critic like this one. He played well and reminded us that there's a decent player in there somewhere that might merit the Real Madrid crest on his uniform. The round-after-round of blitzes on the Mallorca goal would also not have been possible without the help of the fullbacks Marcelo and Arbeloa who did their jobs well in pressuring the Mallorca wingers and shuttling up and down the flanks to support the attack by spreading the pitch when going forward and the midfield through their help in pressuring, intercepting and fortifying the Real Madrid dragnet at the center of the pitch: resulting in an almost non-existent Mallorca attack.
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Granero reminds us all what team he plays for

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The Madrid midfield's congratulations came early in the second half as Man of the Match (in my book at least) Pipita Higuain's cross, was met by Esteban Granero's swinging volley to make it 2-0 (his second of the season). It was a goal that I continue to choose to view as a reward or a capping off of what was essentially a great night and a great performance for the midfield. That the goal was from 'El Pirata', who hasn't played regularly since 'Alcorconzo', is also significant to me: as it may mark the beginning to his re-ascent in terms of prominence and importance to the squad (whose previous peak point was as the team's '12th man'.)
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New Check-ins at the Infirmary
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The match leaves us with more worries though. Rafael Van Der Vaart is now cursing his luck as we speak as news of his 3-week hiatus from the game and training pitch puts his little 'road to redemption' in ruins. It has been many months of fighting at the training pitch, playing off the bench to finally getting a few starts (capped off with a 2-goal performance in the 2009-closer) playing his favored role in Real Madrid for the first time. Though we Madridistas scan breathe a sigh of relief at the return of Kaka upon this injury, many of us (including this blogger) lament Rafa's trip to the infirmary after and admirable fight to get his place in the squad. Animo Rafa... Animo.
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Xabi Alonso also left the pitch grimacing in pain, leaving most of Madridisimo worried at the loss of our 'Pass Master' (who did well despite an unusually large number of misplaced passes last Sunday). While Van Der Vaart's injury seems to require time off for a while (3 weeks), the medical report seems to suggest that rest might be enough to allow him to make the next squad list.
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Return of the Divas
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While Guti played well last Sunday, I was more interested in the OTHER Blonde Spanish midfielder who made waves last weekend.

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As the rest of the football world watched with their jaws dropped at how a blonde 18-year old Spanish midfielder managed to tear the mighty Sevilla apart (Sergio Canales), parts of Madridisimo instead paid attention to another blonde Spanish midfiielder who turned 18 a long, long time ago: The eternal promise, Guti. Guti Haz. returned from exile with a generally impressive 10 minute display of calm, precision passing and ball distribution, including a few that had real goal potential. As I am not a Guti fan, and am skeptical about his ability to be a regular player in the squad, I will not make much of it. As a guy who prides himself in calling a spade a spade, I will be bold enough to admit though that the '14' put on a good display during his short stint on.
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It is interesting to note that we ended the match with a 3G midfield (Guti, Granero & Gago): comprising of a Pirate, a Pop Star (Lady Gago) and our resident Diva (Guti).
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Another quick thought: as Upawan suggested in my last blog entry for us (Real Madrid) to quickly get a move on in signing Canales, the imaginations of the boys at the Spanish daily AS came up with an interesting idea... Replacing the eternal promise with someone with REAL promise. Now that's an idea.
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Onto the Lion's Den
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Now we're off to San Mames... with a fit-again (albeit not match-sharp) Kaka and suspension returnees Lass and Sergio Ramos. Here's to hoping we slay the lion yet again!

5 comments:

  1. Lass and Ramos return, but we lose Pipita and VDV.

    ReplyDelete
  2. yeah... just read about it.

    Looks like Benzema is going to get his chance to start. Time for us to cross our fingers and hope he can come good with the chance that has landed on his lap.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So far he has been a flop. But lately, he has started playing better. Hope he performs well and RM can return with maximum points from San Mames.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well Upawan, it's now down to a choice between him and the slow motion Raul, so we don't have much of a choice on the matter.

    We'll all just have to keep our fingers crossed...

    San Mames is a tough place. We'll need to show some balls when we step into that place. Good luck to them. Hala Madrid!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well Upawan, it's now down to a choice between him and the slow motion Raul, so we don't have much of a choice on the matter.

    We'll all just have to keep our fingers crossed...

    San Mames is a tough place. We'll need to show some balls when we step into that place. Good luck to them. Hala Madrid!

    ReplyDelete