Monday, October 18, 2010

5 Thoughts and a Reaction


Getting Jiggy With It: Ozil wonders why Ronaldo is celebrating with Marcelo when the pass and all the hard work of opening the Malaga defense came from him.
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It’s hard to wake up from the state of ‘hibernation’ that the international break puts me through… as of yesterday morning, despite last Saturday’s nifty performance (coupled with a nice scoreline), my blogging brain was still in hibernation (it also has to do with the fact that I finally got my hands on FIFA 11 for my PSP). But anyway, here come the thoughts from last Saturday.
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First Thought: Wow: 10 goals in 2 matches
While I found myself urging caution from the dangers of euphoria in my last commentary post following the 6-1 annihilation of Depor, it might be a bit more difficult to do it again following last Saturday’s clinical performance against Malaga. It was a no-fuss, non-epic, nonchalant dismissal of a Malaga side that was supposed to be a potential banana-skin match at their ground.
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Don’t get me wrong: Malaga was great: they fearlessly had a go at us: using pacy attacking players Rondon and Quincy (what a great signing!) to put us on the backfoot. In the end, our Portuguese Central Defensive pairing that combined pace + athleticism (Pepe) with intelligence and anticipation (Carvalho) kept Casillas safe. Having said that however, it became clear that even the ‘conservative’ Arbeloa had his hands full with the pacey Rondon… and before anyone wonders what would’ve happened had Sergio Ramos been on the pitch, I’d have to say this: he’d have been carded or would have hurt someone had he been on given his propensity for the balls-out challenges.
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Second Thought: Malaga is looking GOOD
With new cash-rich ownership, despite the fact that the new owners are not in the Chelsea-Man City league of cash-splashers, we might now be looking at La Liga’s next Villarreal: a ‘solid’ club with sound spending principles who bring good talent and is capable of being reasonably competitive without jeopardizing its future (think Super Depor). With financial stability, a budget that allows continuity and security (of getting paid their wages) for the players and some spare change for a few modest signings that can turn out to be really good buys (e.g. Quincy), we might be looking at a Europa League team in the next couple of years.
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Third Thought: What life is like with an off-night for the Central
With Malaga constantly knifing vertically through us last Saturday, Xabi Alonso wasn’t able to control to play the role of the Master Conductor last night. Malaga attacked us quickly and gave the Basque midfielder and his Tunisian sidekick too little time to react and get things under control especially early on in the game. Khedira put in a nice energetic performance that even saw him take a vicious long range missile shot from long distance that was only denied by the woodwork. Last night’s performance showed us what a life with an off-color Xabi looks like: a bit porous…
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An overrun midfield usually means that there’s space beyond… of only there’s a way to funnel the ball forward to the front 4. If that can be managed in whatever way, via a ‘carrillero’ play where Khedira can shuttle forward to bring the ball forward or a lateral pass can find a surging fullback (anyone saw that awesome run by Marcelo where he just totally brushed off 2 Malaga players and zipped past another one? Sick move!). Last Saturday, it was the front 4 who showed how truly lethal they could be. And that’s where I go to my…
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Fourth Thought: What happens when the front 4 LOOK FOR EACH OTHER

Mars Attacks! Ozil tore Malaga apart
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Apart from shuttling the ball forward or getting the ball to the front 4 via the fullbacks, one of the front 4 can also drop deep to collect the ball and then start the attack. Few are as good at this role as our half-human, half-Martian no.23: Mesut Ozil. The German international was a terror for the Malaga defense last night: using his pace and verticality to get behind the defense… and when he got beyond them, his first instinct was always to pass. Pacy, vertical, technical and unselfish: what a player.
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Pipita finally showed up with his shooting boots. No tap-ins this time. His first goal showed us all that he is still oozing with confidence by showing us that he did dare take that tricky shot from the tough angle (as his momentum took him away from the ball and the goal) on a first touch from Cristiano’s looping cross. His 2nd was a more ‘traditional’ Pipita finish, playing off the shoulder of the last defender, latching onto a lead pass and scoring with a clinical finish.
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Cristina & Pipita: They could make an Awesome Twosome... If they want to
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Cristiano Ronaldo is of course hands down the Man of the Match (and Madridista of the Match too of course): 2 goals and 2 assists. Both of his goals were created by Ozil (a penalty won by Ozil and a neat pass after carving open the entire Malaga defense) while his 2 assists were for Pipita: putting to rest (likely for the only meantime) the rumblings that the 2 don’t like each other. After the match, he cheekily denied the ‘allegations’ of his anxiety to score despite the fact that it was so obvious. Last Saturday, he walked onto the pitch having scored for Madrid against Depor and for Portugal in the Euro qualifiers and was devoid of anxiety or insecurity that he claimed he never had. He played with a clear mind and a steady sense of self-confidence. He looked for his teammates in open play and didn’t try to win the match on his own. It was a performance that stood above his teammates, yet one where he played TOGETHER with his team. It was a Cristiano Ronaldo we had all dreamed of seeing.
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Fifth Thought: The subs’ level vs. their potential
Peter Lion finally stepped into the game after the media circus that came out of his supposed tussle with Mourinho post-Levante. It was a great sign for the team: showing Mourinho as a man who knows how to give a lesson and send a message to a squad member without bearing a grudge. Pedro Leon on the other hand, turned in a good performance – looking dangerous on Madrid’s right flank.
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Wonder boy Sergio Canales was next. He’s finally back from his injury. His entrance into the match got a ‘he’s cute’ from my wife, which she later tried to indirectly take back with a ‘… in a Backstreet Boy kinda way.’ Canales did look like a Backstreet Boy with his new haircut and looked even moreso as it really did seem like he’s still lacks the physical strength to keep up with the big boys on the pitch. Giving the wonderkid minutes however is an investment for the team that I’m sure will pay off.
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Finally, third off the bench was Karim Benzema, who was coming off a goalscoring performance for France. The problem was that he turned in an ineffectual performance, doing little and showing the necessary sense of urgency one would expect from a man who was supposed to be hard at work to crack the starting XI. He got 2 great chances: blowing the first one by hesitating to take a shot with his right foot (by the time he got it to his favored left foot, the chance had gone) while completely missing a sitter served to him by Ozil. This has gotten frustrating to the point of me finding myself daydreaming about a cash + player deal for Rooney over the rumor mill cranking up in England. Uff.
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My Final Reaction: Salivating and with my drool frothing up for tomorrow’s Milan Encounter.
Benzema aside, I just CANNOT wait for us to meet Milan at the Bernabeu tomorrow. A great old rival in Europe who we couldn’t manage to beat last season… 2 assholes in their team: an ex-Barca player who likes to kick his own teammates and an ex-Madrid player who has no idea what the definition of gratitude is. I can’t wait to see Mourinho’s men to smash their faces in.

3 comments:

  1. Nice post!! Cant wait to see the match tomorrow!!! It will be a Mou's show!!! La la la

    PS: And also can u please remove your strict procedure to give a comment on this blog??? It sometimes prevent me from the effort i put in to give a quick comment!! Simplify it mate!!

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  2. Hi Joe,

    I've turned off the Word Verification for now... I'll have to turn it back on again if the spam starts rolling in though... Glad you liked the post. Let's hope tonight's match vs. Milan turns out nicely for us!

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  3. Hi MM,

    So... what do you think about the AC Milan game last night? To me it was a pretty good one. I would consider the 2 goals to be flukes, but considering how we dominated the game & creating beautiful chances, we deserved this win well. It was not as dominating the Ajax game, but overall the goal chances were more clear-cut.

    We also had a look of how our defense will hold up against a very talented attacking side, especially in 2/3 of the 1st half. It was a good test. Milan's attacking line is just about as good as it gets in Europe, perhaps bar Barcelona. We held up well although it wasn't to the point that Iker was a spectator. He was tested at least twice: Pirlo FK, & Robinho shot - and he showed his class. We largely managed to shut out their attacking lines.

    Some criticisms I have:
    1. Is the striker plague coming back? The misses they had was quite terrible, w/ CR7 had the worst (the Marcelo would-be-assist in 2nd half).
    2. CR7 FKs never passes the top part of the wall, yet he practically monopolizes the FKs. We have seen this in the last few games. I think Xabi should be given a chance
    3. Di Maria needs to learn how to pass well and know when to pass. His shooting needs to improve as well. When these improvements on Di Maria happen, we'll have the most fearsome wings bar none in Europe.

    Overall, I'm pleased w/ the development. Hopefully we will be ready to give Barca nightmare on November 28. For now, we have the best defense in all Europe and the best offense in Spain (at least statistically speaking).

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