Friday, March 12, 2010

2010-03-10: Real Madrid 1 - Olympique Lyonnais 1

A Nightnare to Remember
It was all going according to plan. The Bernabeu looked fantastic and was abuzz with optimism. It seemed from the livestream that I was viewing the match from that the 'prawn sandwich brigade' didn't turn up... Or at least had tried their best 'true madridista' impersonation. In a matter of mere seconds after kickoff, Kaka was charging down the Lyon goal and forcing Hugo Lloris to a save. In 6 minutes, we were up 1-0 thanks to a visionary pass from Guti that gave Ronaldo the chance to shoot between Lloris' legs for the opening goal. I wanted to scream but decided not to awaken my aunt and cousin who had arrived almost 3 hours before (1am Singapore time). Instead, I calmly told myself '84 minutes is a lot of time to score another one'.... I even told myself that perhaps Sergio Ramos' earlier 3-0 prediction would turn out to be more matter-of-fact as opposed to the Boluda-esque arrogance that had the entire world asking him what 'chorreo' he was talking about.
Minutes later, Pipita latched onto another Guti pass, round off the 'keeper and poke it home for 2-0 and game over only to see the ball hit the post. Things seemed to be unfolding well. The defense played a solid game and were not whistled for Garay's conservative plays to send balls back to Iker instead of taking a chance to get it to the midfield. Guti did well in passing the ball and threading them past layers of Lyon players through to our attackers. And though we should've been up 2 or 3-0 by halftime (and thus celebrate the breaking of the curse).
5 minutes into the second half however, it became clear that the team had left something in the dressing room on their way out. We were slower, sloppier, less vertical and most importantly: more vulnerable. This is not to say however that we were awful and had our asses handed to us: just that we were less potent going forward and seemed less able in neutralizing the dangers they were creating, conceding more free kicks and corners to them. I was still convinced however that we had the upper hand despite finding myself constantly pondering the thought that any goal conceded at this point would be fatal. Not long after that, Miralem Pjanic stuck a dagger into Madridisimo's heart.
Retrospectively, let us all not view last Wednesday night’s outcome as a result of that match alone, but as a mere portion of what was ultimately a badly played 180-minute marathon match or which we played only one hour of good football (the first 15 minutes of the first leg and the first half of last Wednesday’s match). That’s only 1/3 of the 180 minute tie we had vs. Lyon. If we were to divide the 3 goals (2-1 on aggregate) of the tie over the course of the 180 minutes of football that was played, that’s 1 goal for every hour… that’s one goal for the single hour of football that we played. A just result.
Real Madrid’s loss to Olympique Lyonnais can surely be viewed as a failure. While I would go far enough in my defense of them to say that it’s too much to expect from them to win La Decima this season given the team’s 6-month age: I still find it unacceptable for us to be eliminated by the 3rd best team in France, whose top player is a mere bench warmer in our squad. As revealed in pieces over the past few games in this blog, the signs on the wall of our ability to get past Lyon had been written on the wall for some time: our inability to maintain the same level of focus and energy for 90 minutes as well as the innate lack of character from the team which is revealed all the time in big matches such as last Wednesday’s. I truly, truly believe that such characteristics can only be achieved not by the mere stroke of a genius supercrack signing or a wizard-like coach hiring. The last 8 years of our failures in this competition tells the story of this lesson.
For us to learn this lesson however… we must learn, or rather, re-learn the value of humility. The value that opens our eyes and allows us to see that we need to build our squad just like every successful team does. We need to accept that a successful team does not come through the spontaneous combustion generated by 250m Euros worth of signings but through building it the old hard way: a good system, a good coach, some great players, good old chemistry, hard work and the proper amount of time. When Florentino rose to power in the halls of the Bernabeu for the second time, he had spoken about ‘learning from the lessons of the past’. As the vultures from the press and the extremists from Madridisimo circle above, now is the time to truly find out if we have learned from the lessons of the past.

1 comment:

  1. I fully agree with your comment.

    As to why the team seemed different in the second half, rumor has it that a fist fight almost took part in the half time between Guti (joined by Castrol Boy and Kaka') and Pipa (joined by Garay and the spanish guys) because blondie was accusing the argentinian of not passing the ball to CR9 when he had a better chance to score. Thus Guti's words at the end of the game, talking about not being a team.

    Don't know if it's true (read it on Fans), but I wouldn't be surprised at all.

    Anyways, and even tho we wouldn't ultimately have won the Champions League, it's been a big humiliation. I should know, I live in Barcelona and I've been laughed at for the whole week.

    We gotta win this Liga BY ALL MEANS NECESSARY.r