Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ketchup Won’t Come Out…? Then Break the Bottle

The Boys PERFECTLY understand what this win means

In the days before last night’s 3-2 thriller of a win versus  Sevilla, Gonzalo Higuain told the world about the words of wisdom Ruud Van Gol shared with him:
"Ruud told me that goals are like a bottle of kethcup… Sometimes they don't come no matter how much you push, but later they all come out in one hit".
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Last night, the ketchup wouldn’t come out….  What did Real Madrid do? They broke the bottle.
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Last night’s 3-2 win over Sevilla bore all the hallmarks of everything that I’ve always wanted to see from my beloved merengues:
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-It was Sevilla. Sevilla are a top-level team, the kind of team Real Madrid have proven to have difficulties with, the kind of team I wish to see my Merengues beat.  They also happen to be a team whose strengths (their wing play) happened to match Real Madrid’s weaknesses… and we still managed to come out with the win.
-La Liga leadership was at stake and we seized the moment. Well… sort of.  Though we are level on points and ahead of Barcelona on goal difference on goal difference, La Liga counts leadership a bit differently: in the case of a tie on points between 2 teams: it’s the head to head record that counts, and with our Camp Nou loss to Barca last year, they still have the upper hand… being level on points and with their form dropping however, I’m hoping we rattle them enough (read: bring out the cagometro) to dropping more points to give us an edge even before the next El Clasico. While it’s great to celebrate the win, it remains critical that we do not let euphoria take over because of this as there’s still a lot of league to play. It’s good to smile and celebrate though J
-The way by which we won the match: going down 0-2 but having the character ,will, guts and fighting spirit to come back. Very impressively, we launched wave after wave after wave of attack at Sevilla that it made them look like a boxer trapped in the ropes with an endless barrage reigning down upon him, struggling to keep himself standing… only to be knocked out at just the right time.
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As I’ve anticipated, we started the match with a lineup of:
---------- Casillas ------------
Ramos-Albiol-Garay-Arbeloa
- Lass-Xabi Alonso-Marcelo -
---------- Kaka -------------
-------- CR96-Pipita --------
It was relieving to see this lineup with Marcelo at midfield despite his assurances that he’d stop Navas: With Sevilla being famous for their ability to attack you through the flanks, the more defensively astute Arbeloa was a far better alternative to face the Sevilla Super-Winger. Having Sergio Ramos guarding the other flank also gave me a much better sense of comfort especially while knowing that he's been enjoying a rich vein of form as of late. This defensive alignment tells me that Pellegrini understands quite (after all this time) well that there are certain matches where we can have Marcelo at LB, while others where he should be moved forward at a midfield position
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Starting Poorly
We started the match, particularly the first 20-25 minutes very, very poorly though. And in true Sevilla colors, they used Capel and Navas to raid us at our flanks, using their pace to run at us, crossing the ball back and forth from one wing to the other and then to the center, where the beast-like Alvaro Negredo played his role as the 6-yard box battering ram. We relinquished the goal very quickly: Garay having to help out Sevilla's right flank as Jesus Navas darted in....swinging to the left to Capel, who crossed the ball into their/our Targetman Negredo. With Albiol missing his aerial challenge for the ball, Xabi Alonso, who was helping out in the middle fluffs his tackle and pokes the ball into the net. 0-1: and I said 'Shit'. And with our attack unable to establish any sort of cohesion, that creepy 'here we go again' feeling began to grip me.
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One word to explain how Sevilla managed to keep their clean sheet in the first half: Palop
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The First Wave
Midway through the first half though, the Real Madrid we had all been accustomed to seeing began to emerge. I'd perhaps be audacious enough to say that the key men were Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos: the 2 Spaniards began to assert themselves resulting in a comfortable dominion of their respective spaces: the midfield and the right flank. And while Kaka wasn't able to impose his vertical game, he wasn't losing balls as we saw him do so plenty of times early this season. In fact, while perhaps people will be calling him out, I'd say that given the restrictive space he had to work with in the final third of the pitch, he did a good job distributing the ball to the surging Arbeloa and Marcelo at the flanks. Arbeloa was able to send in quite a few crosses, that were easily cleared by the Sevilla defense - and while it would be easy to have a go at him for those poor crosses, knowing that he was a natural at crossing the ball with his right foot instead of his left allowed me to be a bit more understanding of those limp crosses. It was Cristiano, however who decided that he wasn't keen to be a showpony and that he just wanted to beat Sevilla that made the difference: using his trickery efficiently to skip past 3-4 defenders and create little openings for himself to shoot. With Palop on top of his game though, Cristiano's shots as well as Marcelo's (plus Pipita's wonder volley) allowed Sevilla to keep their clean sheet. In the last 15-20 minutes of the first half, it became very clear though that Real Madrid had another gear that Sevilla didn't have.
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Freak Goal
We came out of the dressing room after halftime however down 1 gear once again... and on the 51st minute, Dragotinovic, their CENTERBACK, fired a free kick that would have been a casual save for most keepers, let alone the world's best. Who knew that the great San Iker too can sleep on the job. Completely misjudging the free kick's (and free kick-taker's?) path. It was too late by the time Casillas realized it was on it's way in: not even his acrobatic leap for a save was good enough to prevent the score from going 0-2. At that point it time, I began thinking the unthinkable: I told myself that to be behind 3 points to Barca isn't too bad anyways. Thank God the team had other things in mind.
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Pellegrini's Gamble
Down 0-2 and clearly still with the ambition to win, Pellegrini rolled the dice: what was the worst that could happen? We were already down 0-2 anyway. I agree that in a situation like last night's, there was no difference between losing 0-2 and, 0-3. With that, out came Arbeloa and Lass and in came Guti & Van Der Vaart. It was very clear that we were going for goals: as many of them as we could. It was a bold gamble that I'm happy Pellegrini took and I'm deliriously over the moon to see work out. With a midfield packed with creativity and firepower and 2 eager beaver attackers (Pipita & Cristiano) thirsty for goals, for the second time in th match, we cranked it up another gear.
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My Man of the Match: Sergio Ramos. Classy Move to Dedicate the Goal to the inmates of Valdemoro Prison. But what the hell is with that nipple fondling celebration? Disgusting.
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The Ketchup Bottle Breaks
Despite a scare down his wing with a Navas + Perotti combination play on his flank, Marcelo managed to survive the lone attack on his wing... after that, it was his charge into the Sevilla area that started chaos for them: playing a ball towards Higuain, it got deflected but not cleared... ending up on the path of a goal-hungry Cristiano Ronaldo who ruthlessly fired it home to make it 2-1. In a matter of minutes (3, I think), Sergio Ramos had made it 2-2 with a trademark header off a corner delivered by Rafa Van Der Vaart who once again put on a great performance off the bench. My jubilation from what took place was not merely out of the fact that we had finally put the game on level terms with still enough time to win it nor was it due to that ridiculous nipple-fondling goal celebration from Sergio Ramos. It was also due to the fact that Sevilla looked completely helpless to everything that was happening... as if they were merely going through the motions in facing inevitability. The looks on their faces, their reactions as well as their body language read as if they were 'Dead Men Walking' towards the gas chamber. Manolo Jimenez's comments post-match confirmed this helplessness.
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Van Der Vaart goes Mad after Scoring the winning goal. I'm very happy for the Dutchman
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It had to go down the wire however before we were finally able to get past the finish line with Van Der Vaart lunging to poke the goal home 3-2 in extra time. His reaction said it all: taking his shirt off with the look of a man whose euphoria has taken him into the very fine line between jubilation and madness. How could he not: after seeing his teammates Pipita strike the woodwork twice, one of them after receiving a trademark armor-piercing pass from Guti. Aside from them, Guti's missile from long range as well as Cristiano's shots (one of which was saved by Raul's back) had me and Madridisimo, players included screaming in anxiety of making that last dash to the finish line... scoring that 3rd goal... winning those 3 points.
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Candidates for Real Madrid Man of the Match:
Please Vote in the survey at the right side of the page on who you felt was the Real Madrid Man of the Match (my vote goes to Sergio Ramos):
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-Cristiano Ronaldo - Was dangerous the entire game and opened the floodgates with his goal to start the 'remontada'
-Van Der Vaart - The Impact Sub: 1 assist, 1 goal (including the winning goal) to cap off a great cameo
-Sergio Ramos - He OWNED his flank. Great on Defense, Great on Attack: He scored a goal too
-Xabi Alonso - When he turns it on, the entire team turns it on.
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Results of the RM MOTM in last week's victory over Tenerife:
Cristiano Ronaldo - 5%
Kaka                    - 0%
Raul                      - 0%
Gonzalo Higuain    - 84%
Iker Casillas          - 5%
Xabi Alonso          - 5%
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Warning Signs for the Lyon Match:
Despite the clearly positive outcome and image that we left in this match with, we surely left signs of bad habits that we must purge for Lyon's coming visit this Wednesday. This is a particularly precarious situation as they come into the match with a 1-0 advantage from the previous leg and any goal we concede against them counts as double as it will be an 'away goal'. We must not allow them to have the initiative during any part of the match like we allowed Sevilla to start the match last night. Further to this, any type of brain meltdown like Casillas had will surely prove to be fatal.
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Last night's win was surely great for morale: of the team and the fans. It was also a 'character win': the type of game I love to see from my Merengues. Let us all not forget however, that a 2-1 or a 3-2 will not do against Lyon on Wednesday... and if we are to avoid that, we had better start this Wednesday's match having broken the ketchup bottle in the tunnel before we even run out onto the pitch.
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Feel-Good Moment: The Bernabeu & Players Applaud Each other at the End of the Match
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A Small Anecdote
Last night, on Real Madrid's 108th anniversary, we broke a ketchup bottle open. Here's to hoping that by the end of the season, it will be Champagne bottles...

4 comments:

  1. Spot on with warning signs for the Lyon game. A 3-2 result on Wednesday will see us out of the tournament and I just hope we take the positive confidence into that game and not complacency. Lyon's defence will be a lot more systematic and Xabi's absence could hurt us.

    I am not trying to be pessimistic but last night was half the job done.

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  2. The match was a lost opportunity to humiliate those disgusting sevillanos and send them back home with a 5-0. But, oh man, what a game nevertheless. I screamed at the 3rd goal so loud that I think half of Barcelona heard me.

    And, as Cristiano says: bring on Lyon, we're gonna show who's boss.

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  3. Oh, and I want to add that if I was Florentino, this summer I would sell Iker with his "best keeper in the world" etiquette for a gazillion euros and buy a real goalie like Palop or our own Diego López.

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  4. As I've mentioned, we cannot bring into the Lyon game the kind of unfocused and careless play we brought with us during the early stages of both halves of the Sevilla match. It will cost us dearly if so.

    RE: the Sevilla goal, it was also partly Xabi Alonso's fault as it is standard procedure for the Goalkeeper to 'call it out' if he wants his outfield players to jump to stop the ball or if he will take it upon himself to save/claim the ball (similar to volleyball's 'mine!')... he didn't call it out and thus it was Xabi's odd decision not to head it (he sort of even ducked) that was part of the reason why the ball got through.

    I still wouldn't trade Iker for any goalkeeper out there today. He's not the most well-rounded keeper though and as such, I'd hesitate to call him the world's best.

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