Spanish League: Day 34


Spring in Madrid is generally unpleasant. Yesterday there was storm. Between the rain and disappointment, the public turned away from the Bernabeu Stadium. Empty seats reflected the feeling that the season runs without producing the expected results. The malaise spread to the stands and the field, where the team emerged with a touch of melancholy after the captains, Casillas and Ramos, presented the Spanish Cup trophy with a poker face. There were no smiles. Only two thoughtful guys, anticipation of the visit to the Nou Camp next Tuesday, the day all may end with a bang if Madrid does not back the 0-2 in the semifinal round of the Champions League.

Real Madrid went out to play, overloaded with dark ideas, a League in which there is not much to say. This less level of stress exposed white team against Zaragoza, which came to defend its stay in first division with the effort of a team that is playing its salary. As often happens in these cases, won the most needy. If Madrid loses on Saturday at the Sanchez Pizjuan (10:00 pm) the championship could be arithmetically for Barcelona, which host Espanyol on Sunday (7:00 pm).

Madrid found from the beginning a problem that has presented throughout the season. Team had the ball but did not know how to play with it. Until Sergio Ramos scored with a header past the hour mark, the team never once shot into the net. By then, the shame of being overcome. Zaragoza had moved the scoreboard twice, defending with energy and deployed with speed and simplicity. Recovered the ball, Gabi and Jorge Lopez changed the direction of the play, and Uche with Lafita attacked the spaces. More vulnerable than usual due to his midfield, Carvalho suffered a torture to protect the prairie.

Casillas upset on the field
Casillas: Upset after Zaragoza's first goal

Zaragoza was presented with the lesson learned. In Spain, the basic antidote against the Madrid Plan is written in the book of all the coaches of first division: Levante, Osasuna, Deportivo and Sporting, among others. Zaragoza did the same. Ceded the field and barricaded itself in the vicinity of its area. They planted a five-defense. Was protected in the middle with Ponzio and closed the sides with two men to prevent Higuain and Kaka found space outside, as they did at the Mestalla last week. Forced to take the initiative, Real Madrid was not comfortable. White team works like a clock whenis attacked, but when give the ball has not acquired the mechanisms to develop an effective static attack.

At the apex of every play Pepe was acting as the only midfielder. His presence at this position did not help clarify the picture. Pepe's inability to organize the team, directed to defensive mismatches. The man is going through two grueling weeks. He was never a pass player and the day has not a full tank, suffers because he can not dispense efforts. In addition Granero and Canales, very intermittent, did not help either.

Thus, on the 40-minute mark, Jorge López led the move for the first goal with a long pass that bounced on the edge of the area. The central defenders were misplaced and Casillas came out to kick but the ball should bounce wrong. The rain has these things. Uche took advantage of the decline and passed to Lafita who scored quietly.

The second half was decidedly different. Real Madrid pressurised much more in attack, stealing the ball in Zaragoza's half of the pitch. But the visitors managed to score again from a fast counterattack that ended in a penalty awarded to Lafita and converted by Gabi (53'). Mourinho brought Marcelo and Ozil on, the latter serving a corner kick on the 61-minute mark finished off perfectly by Ramos. With half an hour left on the clock, the Bernabeu started to roar in support of its team.

Real Madrid besieged its opponent when Uche connected with Lafita, who was alone with Casillas before scoring the 1-3. Benzema, remarkable game, responded after a pass of Higuain. It was 2-3. Madrid's reaction was superb but lacked something that had throughout the season: a great defense. Carvalho brought down Uche and was send-off. A penalty on Kaka, that the referee did not whistle, and a shot to the crosshead of Benzema, unstoppable in the final minutes, tested the nerves of Zaragoza which ended the game in its area. Physically exhausted, but settled in first division.


Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu
Attendance: 67,000
Goals: 0-1, m.41: Lafita. 0-2, m.54: Gabi (penalty) 1-2, m.63: Sergio Ramos. 1-3, m.78: Lafita. 2-3, m.85: Benzema.

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