Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lyon - Real Madrid Champions League Review, Florentino Perez, & The Riazor

Real Madrid visited the Stade de Gerland, in Lyon, on the 22nd of February, 2011, to begin the journey of ending our round of sixteen curse. Mourinho didn't make many changes to the line ups we're already used to, but he went for a more defensive approach by dropping Marcelo and inserting Arbeloa.

Real Madrid: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe, Alvaro Arbeloa, Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Lyon: Hugo Lloris, Lovren, Cris, Cissokho, Reveillere, Toulalan, Kallstrom, Cesar Delgado, Michel Bastos, Gomis and Gourcuff.

The first half was pretty lackluster, and somewhat disjointed on the path of Los Blancos. No real chances were created and no attempts made at Hugo Lloris until Angel Di Maria's long range shot in the 30th minute which was later followed by Ronaldo's freekick. Apart from those chances, the first half was all about Lyon. We had the possession, but they ran all over us each time they had the ball. They didn't have too many chances themselves, but that was partly due to the hard work of our back four. They were kept on their toes all night.

The second half saw a more lively performance from the away side. Quick passing and incisive runs that we had expected from them right from the first half; and very tight pressing each time they lost the ball. The second half also came with some gifts of pure bad luck. Cristiano Ronaldo's well taken direct free kick hit the post and narrowly missed Sergio Ramos' head, and just a few minutes after that, Serio Ramos' header went of the post, and missed the on rushing head of Ricardo Carvalho.

Mourinho then thought it necessary to make a change. He pulled off Adebayor, who happened to be having a forgettable night, and brought former Lyon striker, Karim Benzema. 40 seconds after he came in, he. along with Ozil, managed to wrestle the ball off a Lyon player (Delgado, I think) before the German controlled the ball perfectly to slot in a beautiful pass to Ronaldo who didn't need more than one touch to play in Benzema who had already made a dashing and intelligent run into the box. The French man controlled the ball like the star striker that Perez intended to buy, before slotting it home through Lloris' legs.

The crowd went wild......oh wait, no, the whole Stadium went silent, including the player who scored the goal. Benzema did not celebrate the goal out of respect for his former club (classy). The Frenchman's goal made for wonderful poetic justice because he is now the first Madrid Player to score a goal in Stade de Garland, after having called that same place his home, just over a year ago.

Another highlight of the game was Florentino Perez' reaction to the goal. The old man was obviously under a lot of pressure knowing what the fate of his team has been in that stadium in the past. After Benzema scored, he stood up with his hands in the air, then held his head (maybe he remembered where he was) then put his hands back up in the air.

I know this Sir Florentino has made a lot of mistakes in the past, but his reaction to the goal showed how much love he has for this club. In one of his interviews before the match, he admitted that he let his ego affect his judgment during his first stint as president, but that he is now a changed man. On a more unrelated not, he even hinted at the possible signing of Dani Parejo(Getafe), and Jose Callejon (Espanyol). Okay, I'm going off point.

Back to the game..... Real Madrid seemed to take their foot off the pedal after the goal(even though it was never really on the pedal in the first place), before Lyon striker, Gomis slotted home a deflected set piece play, that left him alone with Iker Casillas for the equalizer.

Before the equalizing goal for Lyon, Mourinho had taken off Mesut Ozil for Marcelo, and an injured Sami Khedira for Lassana Diarra. Apart from the play that led to Benzema's goal, Mesut Ozil did not have much more to take home from the game. He was sub par. After that goal, it was Lyon, Lyon, Lyon all the way to the final whistle.

All in all, it wasn't the kind of performance we would have expected from the team. A 1-1 draw away from home is never a bad result in the Champions league, but a win would have been much better to go home with.

Some stats revealed that the whole team ran for 110.6 kilometers with Alonso covering the most distance (11.5km). Di Maria came second with 11.13 km, Ramos third with 10.5km and Carvalho was fourth with 10.1 km.

A 0-0 scoreline in the Bernebeau will mean Real Madrid goes through; 1-1 will mean extra time/penalties, 2-2 and above will mean Lyon goes through, and of course any of the two that wins or loses will go through or go home respectively.

Ronaldo is one yellow card away from being suspended, including Raul Albiol.

Real Madrid has never been eliminated from Europe after having drawn 1-1 away from home, so there is hope, but after my pre clasico write up, about how playing on a Monday was in Real Madrid's favor, (historically speaking), and still going on to lose the way we did, I have now realised that records are meant to be broken. Whatever happened in the past does not affect what will happen against Lyon in the Bernebeau. All that matters is that we try our best to win.

The second leg will be played on the 16th of March at the Santiago Bernebeau stadium. You can only expect the stadium to be packed like it was against Sevilla in the Cope Del Rey semi final match (2nd leg), for the singular reason that it's our chance to break the curse of the round of sixteen.

Moving on, Real Madrid will face Deportivo La Coruna in the Riazor this saturday 26/02/1011. Thanks to the beauty that was Guti's backheel, we were able to break the curse of the Riazor last season. Real Madrid had never beaten Depor in the Riazor since 1992 before last season. Obviously, the stadium is a tricky one to play in, so we must paly hard to get a good win.

That's all for now. We apologise for not posting stuff as frequently as possible. There's never much time to squeeze out from my day, to write anything, and I'm sure the same is the case for Deepak. We would also welcome any guest posts we can lay our hands on. Thank you.


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Hala Madrid!

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