Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A “7EGENDARY” Comeback

Posted by: Ashay K, India.

Real Madrid is a brand name. But in this team, every player is a brand name in his own right. The 06-07 season saw the team branded quite differently from the usual Los Blancos, Los Galacticos to “Capello’s Boys”. Capello symbolizes an abstract for the Madrid faithful (players, fans and management) rather than a person. Capello is determination, grit, pride, the “never say die” attitude for a madridista.

“Jonarda 33: Sevilla – Real Madrid” saw yet another chapter written into the scripted comeback that only Real Madrid with their “Capello” can orchestrate.

Rewind the clock to December 13, 2008. Juande Ramos had landed in Madrid 48 hours before and proclaimed that the back 4 of Real Madrid (S. Ramos, Cannavaro, Pepe, Heinze) – until then the leakiest defence in La Liga – could grace any top team in the world and was one of the best. Pretty strong claim, if one considers the last season, but not this one. Real Madrid played one of most defensive games in their entire career as a professional football club to stem the Barca juggernaut. And they almost succeeded. Drenthe spurned a one-on-one chance with Valdes, Casills wared off an Etoo penalty kick at the other end and the goal, when it came in the 81st minute, came from a corner (that ever reliant scrappiest source of goals). Real Madrid lost 0-2 to Barcelona at the Camp Nou and the point gap widened to 12 points, but it silenced those who were expecting a manita. A team which was going to be doubtful to make it to the Champions League next term went down fighting like lions, fighting for pride. There were flashes of Capello in that match; but not enough Capello. We declared the next day that we would fight for the league and win it. Everyone in Barcelona had a patronizing grin on their face and the so called football pundits had the disposition towards Madrid which a father has towards an errant child.

Fast forward the clock to Present Day. Real Madrid has been unbeaten on the trot since that fateful encounter with Barca. We have won 17 out of the last 18 matches. We have one of the meanest defence in the league since the turn of the new year but our play lacks the necessary eye candy element, which is still fine given that there are no extra points for attractive football There’s enough of Capello in our squad though and we’ve clawed our way back from a 12 point deficit to just 4 after being virtually written out of contention for the league; which all brings us down to the last concluded match.

Barcelona had a lucky draw against a resurgent Valencia at the Mestalla on the previous day and got 1 point out of an encounter that was destined to hand them none. This was the chance for Madrid to shorten the now 7 point gap to 4, provided they won against Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan; a venue where they hadn’t won for the past 6 years. Unlikely? Very Much. But the team, especially El Capitan had other ideas.

Juande-Dollars and Judas Chants

The Andulasian crowd greeted Real Madrid on the back of a 4-0 defeat to Barcelona with dollar bills having Juande Ramos’ mugshot on them and chants of “Judas” directed at Juande Ramos and Sergio Ramos. Ironically, it was Juande Ramos who led Sevilla from being a mediocre mid-table club to European glory before departing for his disaster of a season with Tottenham Spurs. The Andulasians seemd to echo a distinct anti-madrid feeling by whistling at the two Ramoses, though they dint seem to take any offence to Dani Alves, who had departed for exactly the same reason as the former two did, but to Barcelona.

Referee Alfonso Burull (the awarder of the infamous decisions in Madrid’s favor against Osasuna) kicked off the match in front of a 45,000 attendance and Sevilla immediately hit top gear. Sevilla had the lion’s share of possession in the opening 10 minutes. Adriano, Renato, Kanoute, Perotti, Jesus Navas dominated the midfield and kept the ball moving around the park through Romaric and Duscher. Quite predictably, Sevilla had all the initial chances. Romaric and Renato blasted in early chances which were saved by San Iker. Sevilla kept up the pressure with Madrid really struggling to string passes together. Sergio Ramos, in particular was having a very poor game (by his own high standards) and soon, Perotti wrong footed Ramos and unleashed a beautiful cross. Torres was caught napping as Renato nodded a free header into the back of the net. Sevilla were one goal up in 15 minutes and showed no chances of relenting as Kanoute sprayed an easy effort wide of the goal. Barely a minute later, Perotti broke free of the offside trap and bounded down the park. But his left-footed shot was tame and easily parried away by Casillas.

As the time wore on and the initial exuberance faded, Madrid slowly started getting into the match. Marcelo had a half hearted shot which was well wide of the goal. Higuain slowly started getting into the groove and had two back to back chances, one which Palop parried and the other which could only make the side netting at the near post. The match soon disintegrated into a midfield tussle with destroyers taking precedence. Lass was having yet another of his best games as he ran all over the park, working tirelessly to cut down openings and nip attacks in the bud. At the other end Duscher received a yellow card for a bad foul on Guti and nothing came out the ensuing free kick. The ball continued to bob around in the air as the Madrid defenders started tracking back after the non-productive free kick. All of a sudden it landed at Ramos’ feet who backheeled it to a back tracking Metzelder. Metzelder beat Navarro to the ball and accelerated down towards the end of the pitch before unleashing a dangerous, low cross into the middle of the box. All of a sudden, Raul beat Prieto to the ball and flicked it away into the far post from 3 yards out, past an onrushing Palop.

The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan went silent just as the clock read 45 minutes and the scoreboard read 1-1. Real Madrid was back into the game. The stage was set for the next 45 minutes, which promised to be much more entertaining than the first.

“Raul” Madrid

As soon as the teams came out of the tunnel, each had shots at either end. Marcelo had a brilliant run into the box and he laid off the ball for Higuain to finish it, but the in-form striker’s 1st time shot with his left foot (and incidentally the same foot which helped Madrid win against Getafe) let him down as the ball went harmlessly wide. On the other end, Jesus Navas drilled a low, power strike to the bottom right corner which Casillas spilled initially but gathered later before Kanoute latched on to it.

Sixty-three minutes into the game, Higuain combined with Torres who sent in a tame cross into the box which took a deflection off Escude. Almost against the direction of play, Raul came in from behind Prieto and volleyed the ball into the far post at his right. Palop was absolutely clueless and so was Prieto. It was one of those touches which only Raul can manage. Suddenly Real Madrid was leading 2-1 and the Pizjuan went silent once more. Only 3 minutes later, Palop made a criminal error in spilling Higuain’s low cross. Raul, on the prowl, darted forward and guided the ball into an empty net. Its times like these which make one to never count Raul out of the game. El Siete took just 3 chances to score only his third hat-trick in La Liga, and it was more to do with the fact that Sevilla had got their tactics horribly wrong. They had labeled Raul as a “has been” and concentrated on marking Higuain out of the game. But this strong reminder from El Capitan would always serve the Andulasians to remember that one never under estimates Raul.

The game dragged on with Madrid enjoying more possession, and substitutions happening at regular intervals. Almost at the death, as the clock struck 82 minutes, Jesus Navas sent in a tempting cross and Ramos completely miscued it to allow Diego Capel to strike it home at the near post. The Pizjuan came back to life as Sevilla announced that they would not go without a fight. Madrid then closed up shop and chose to defend and hit on counters. Sevilla could not penetrate Real Madrid and though they tried their best, their attack simply lacked enough conviction. In injury time, Madrid made a slick counter attacking move which saw Huntelaar (on for Raul) and Marcelo up front with two defenders to beat. Huntelaar drew away one defender and sent in a pass to the surging Marcelo who went one-on-one with Palop. 1..2..3 fakes and still Palop dint go down; but Marcelo having had enough of the little game slot the ball past Palop beautifully for the 4th goal and final nail in the coffin for Sevilla.

Madridistas world round were celebrating the further reduction in the point deficit. Things, as they stand now, Real Madrid are 4 points behind leaders Barcelona with El Clasico coming up next week. Should Real go on to win the Clasico, the gap would close down to 1 point; a very realistic chance there on of winning the league. The way Barcelona is playing, no one expects Madrid to win against them. But in Madrid, they believe in miracles. An abundance of Capello is what drives this miracle team. At Madrid they have a right to dream…


  1. wonderful...article...the entire build up and the Capello flashbacks really set the ambience.

    any as for the chants not being directed towards dani alves...u missed out kieta...

    4-2 to madrid and 5/5 for this beautiful article and the very beautiful self explanatory heading


  2. Well done Ashay. Neat stuff. I am worried about the state of Sergio Ramos. He has lost almost every personal battle with Diego Capel. He has the best of Ramos almost every time these guys have clashed and also got him sent off as well!! To make matters worse, he seems to have lost the kind of composure he had last season. I hope he does not lose his cool in the Classico. For, if it is a case of deja vu, we need all the help we can get to get a good head to head result.

    - A Spaniard in the works.

  3. Yeah. Sergio Ramos has been very inconsistent this entire season. Okay. he isnt picking as many cards this term as he's done in the previous season, but whats worryng is the fact tht he has been a let-down in general. His surging runs are non-existent these days, and his crosses lack precision. To top it all, he's been downright poor in the last 3-4 games. I'm hoping that he's saving his best for the clasico. He really needs to pull up his socks seeing as he'll b marking either of the two best players in the world: Iniesta and Messi.

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