Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Domino Effect


Angel DI(VE) Maria. He earned his nickname last Sunday. The Olympics are next year you Jackass

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1.0  What have we done?
It just HAD to be the absence of Khedira once again that made the difference. Only this time, we weren’t talking about the difference between winning by 4-0 or 4-2. This time, we are talking about actually winning or losing: 3 points, 1 point or nothing. And as was the case last night, we ended with zilch: putting to waste the points dropped by Barca vs. Sociedad and the ones we gained vs. Getafe last week. Now, Barca’s 8-0 massacre of Osasuna feels that much more orgasmic to the cules thanks to the freakshow we put out last night.
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Losing points like this regardless of what Mourinho says (“we’re better of losing 1 than drawing 2”) hurts – because believe it or not, the La Liga Title is NOT won during the clasicos but in games like this. Last season we dropped points to teams like Levante, Sporting and Zaragoza: points that would’ve allowed us that tiny advantage to win La Liga: lost clasicos or not.
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I’ve always imagined / hoped that our squad, considerably larger than Barca’s and whose fitness has reached peak levels can rattle off win after win going into early December for the first clasico. On the other hand, many in the know, among them cules, anticipate Barca to drop points here and there till they reach full fitness and go about their annual weekly massacres by end November-early December heading into the Clasico. I was hoping our early season fitness advantage would see us 4 – 5 points ahead of Barca heading into the December clasico: meaning that not even a loss then would cost us League Leadership. But it was not to be.
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I would have accepted dropping points to La Liga’s other top-level sides too: the rejuvenated Diego+Falcao-led Atleti (who hammered Racing last night), the Soldado-inspired Valencia, the Negredo-spearheaded Sevilla or even the Millionaires at Malaga… all are legitimate Madrid upsetters. But Levante? Come on!
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… And none of that Levante-is-a-bogey-team-crap please! I’m not interested in constructing a reincarnation of the Riazor.
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2.0  Di(ve) Maria
His Thank-You-Speech: "I would like to thank Sami Khedira for taking a Red Card for me... I will never forget this!"

The subject of much conversation / irritation / hatred of course had to be the man who started the Domino effect that led to all this: Mr. Angel Di(ve) Maria. Was he trying to ‘fit in’ because he mistakenly thought that he was playing in the Camp Nou because of Levante’s ‘Blaugrana Colors’?  In a world where Madridistas rebelliously stand in disgust at Barca and their Biscuit Boy divers and whiners, Di Maria robbed us of all of the credibility to do so.
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Although I do partly agree with Mourinho’s statement that Khedira ‘walked right into the trap’ when he pushed Ballesteros aside to defend his teammate, I’m having a very difficult time imagining anyone else except for Di Maria who set that trap. Di Maria owes Khedira and his teammates an apology for this stunt that cost us the game, Khedira for at least another game, his other teammates for yellow cards accumulated because of the tempestuous affair the match had become and of course, the fans given how terrible the game turned out to be for Madrid after Khedira’s sending off.
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The sending off of Khedira thanks to Di Maria’s moments of childish mindlessness triggered the Domino Effect that completely sucked Real Madrid’s momentum out of the game.
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3.0  Tactics & Personnel
3.1  Pre-Khedira Expulsion
While Madrid press were salivating about what a rich, handsome, great AND brave footballer (the latter adjective used to describe his insistence to play) Ronaldo was, I was just happy to see Sami Khedira back. I also didn’t mind seeing Kaka in place of Ozil.
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Until Di Maria’s childish antics got the better of the team, the German panzer made the Real Madrid Midfield robust, and much more effective and ‘enveloping’ Levante’s goal. His ability to ‘fade away’ from attention but always be there for a ball recovery, a simple pass, or tackle, gave Xabi Alonso the perfect platform to do his thing. On the other hand, I totally didn’t mind seeing Coentrao in Ronaldo’s role. As for Kaka, his starting XI place seemed a just reward for his standout cameos off the bench in place of Ozil who seems to need to adjust to life as a player-against-whom-defenses-are-designed-to-stop. Kaka looked refreshing last night during the first half: confidently using his acceleration to knife through Levante’s defense and showing us glimpses of the confidence-applied-to-his-directness qualities that made many a Madridista dream of seeing him in white during his days with the Rossoneri.
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While it is true that Levante played reasonably well (I thought Ballesteros was very good for them) to repel us and ensure that they weren’t going to get a hiding ala Osasuna, I was pretty confident that we would’ve walked away with at least a 2-0 on the back of our first 40-mins. performance.
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3.2  Post-Khedira Tactics
Apart from Di Maria explosion of immaturity last night, what really drove me up the wall was how the team played post-Khedira. The team came out in the second half sending Ronaldo in for Benzema, pushing Coentrao to partner with Xabi Alonso: give us a headless 4-2-3 shape (without the 1). It is still a fundamentally sound tactic, playing with 10 men: sending in a hybrid winger-cum-striker (Ronaldo) in for a pure striker (Benzema).
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Once again however, my problem with the team lay with Coentrao playing as a CM. Forced by the urgency to score a goal, Coentrao failed to give us a presence at midfield that we so badly needed without Khedira. Xabi Alonso played his role heroically – but it wasn’t enough. With the presence of Lass on the bench as a direct replacement and Arbeloa as well (to push Ramos to CB and give Pepe the DM role), Mourinho instead opted for his compatriot to play a role unsuitable for the ‘15’. Kaka got no service (neither did Ozil when he came on) and the attack went stale. To top it all off, Real Madrid shockingly began to play long ball soccer in the second half too: with Pepe, Carvalho and Coentrao hoofing up speculative balls for Ronaldo and Di Maria to chase. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Route 1 football: I do have a problem with us playing it, without a proper ‘9’.
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It was as awful as it was ineffective and ultimately, dangerous: CBs and DMs hoofing up long balls for Cristiano, Di Maria and the Fullbacks to chase – leaving space for Levante to strike and threaten with counters. The cycle repeated itself over and over again – it wouldn’t be long before they had more chances on goal during the second half than us. Soon enough, a dagger would find itself into our chests with Kone’s goal.
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And while Mourinho is predictably ‘protecting his team’: talking about the state of the pitch, penalties not given, etc. I’m pretty sure (or hoping at least) that once he watches the DVD of last night’s game, he will be asking the same question: Why the hell were we playing long ball football to get back into the game?
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Somehow we all saw it coming. bit by bit: Di Maria’s little tumble knocks over one domino piece after another…
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… A nasty tackle that earns him a yellow.
… A little poke in the face that gives him the opportunity to do a Sergio Busquets
… A telling off from Ballesteros that provokes Khedira’s protective instinct for a teammage
… A second yellow for Khedira. Expulsion
… The game turns ugly for Madrid, they lose the momentum
… Levante find the opportunity to turn the tide and score.
… Real Madrid lose 1-0.
… And Just like that, a not-yet-fully-fit Barca are now a point ahead of us
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How far does this domino effect go? And when does it stop?
The answer is quite simple: when we choose to grow up, stop fucking around and play some bloody football.
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originally posted in Real Madrid Football Blog here

4 comments:

  1. so true this is the first time i start to doubte about morinho's tactics this has never happened to madrid b4 his arrival, never so many yellow cards, never so many sending offs, these three points will haunt us for sure, sometimes i think ppl r right when they blame us for not playing football!!!!!!

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  2. It's true we played poorly ,but boy it seems like your mad (really mad) at di maria. I think you should cut him some slack. After all, without him, we would have drawn with Dinamo. Haha. But I don't blame you; at least you wrote. I didNOT write 'cause I probably would have been expelled from blogging after such harsh writing. LOL.

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  3. @ Jaci - yup I was pissed off at Di Maria. But please don't misinterpret my criticism of him as wanting him out or anything like that. I still am a Di Maria fan. I just think of my role as a blogger to criticize things that I feel aren't right and praise those that are.

    And last week - Di Maria's antics merited heavy criticism. Notice that I didn't even mention him in my review of the Rayo game - because I felt he did ok and that not even his sending off didn't deserve criticism.

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  4. I completely understand :D Thanks for the follow up comment.

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