Real Madrid 5-1 Real Murcia
Real Madrid avoided yet another calamitous Copa Del Rey exit with a resounding 5-1 win over Real Murcia at the Bernabeu. The match was full of incidents right from the sending off of our manager Jose Mourinho in the first half till Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso getting their names on the scoresheet. Real also ended up with 10 players with Alvaro Arbeloa being sent off towards the end of the game.
Mourinho made his line up more Spanish than ever by naming 7 Spanish players in his starting XI. The two others apart from the 9 already revealed yesterday were Diarra and Higuain with the latter being paired up with Benzema up front for the first time this season. Mourinho had reiterated that this was game should be used by the fringe players to prove their mettle and Esteban Granero made an immediate impact by scoring a blinder just four minutes into the game. Sergio Ramos, who started as a center half along side Albiol played a diagonal to Pedro Leon on the right. The former Murcia man laid the ball perfectly for Granero to curl in an unstoppable shot into the top corner from outside the area. El Pirata had a point to prove and that was one heck of a way to do so. And post-match he admitted it.
We were fortunate to score early. I am happy that I was able to help the team. I wanted to play well. We are Real Madrid and we know what is expected of us, but we are all professionals and we all try our hardest to earn a spot.
Real, I felt were far more dynamic than they were in the first leg of the tie. I don’t know if it was because of the change in strategy or because of the lack of players who prefer dribbling passing (like Ozil, Di Maria and Ronaldo). The passing was good and Real maintained possession well. Murcia needed the ball to score and Real clearly had other ideas. And having gotten the all important first goal Real were looking confident and comfortable. Granero and Pedro Leon to me were a class apart from the rest.
The match reached the half hour mark and Real had not created that many chances apart from the goal itself. There were fouls all over the park and two of our players were booked in the first 15 minutes. It was six twenty minutes later and then it happened. Mourinho, who was furious with the refereeing for a while now retorted both at the fourth official as well as Paradas Romero resulting in his expulsion from the game. JM was clearly outraged by what was going on in the center of the park and as he decided to express how he felt about the referee. As expected the post-match presser was full of questions with respect to the referee. This is what the manager had to say regarding the referee:
I cannot say he was a bad referee. I would make a terrible referee. All that matters is that we won.
Just look at this referee’s statistics. It is in his nature. I’m not saying he is good or bad. I am not one to judge him, but I do usually analyze referee statistics. This one has officiated about 50 matches in Primera and has shown more than 250 yellow cards; an average of more than six per match. He booked ten players in his last match. I knew once I was sent off that I couldn’t stay where I was, so I looked for the best vantage point and didn’t have a problem.
The sending off didn’t hamper the spirits of neither the fans nor the players. The Madridista faithful went on chanting Jose Mourinho and the players ensured that the team was in a comfort zone going into half time. The first attempt at that was when Higuain shrugged off a defender to shoot way over the bar from just outside the six yard box and the second attempt was the goal itself. Marcelo’s cross after a short corner fell straight to Higuain at the far post who slotted the ball in for Real to go 2-0 up on aggregate. There was a lot of confusion with respect to the legibility of the goal as Sergio Ramos was in an offside position when Higuain shot the ball. While the Murcianos felt that his presence affected the play, the referee felt otherwise. The goal stood and Real went into half time two goals ahead. Personally I felt that the goal shouldn’t have stood.
The second half saw Mourinho make two changes to the side that started the game. Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Canales came off for Xabi Alonso and Cristiano Ronaldo. The manager’s intentions were clear. He wanted the team get as many goals as they can. But he also mentioned that he was not at all happy with the way Sergio Canales played. Well, I don’t know how exactly he wanted the youngster to play. As far as what I could see he was doing fine. The only bad thing that I could get out of his performance was his positioning. It looked as though he didn’t know his place on the pitch. I am sure he didn’t have a free role in the team as we were playing with two up front.
Anyways, Real continued their domination of the game as expected. The first chance of the half fell to Pedro Leon after a penalty box scramble involving Ronaldo and Benzema. The Spaniard could only fire wide when he definitely should have scored. Cristiano Ronaldo had the next chance after some clever interplay between Pedro Leon and himself. Ronaldo shot on the volley but the shot went just wide of the post. The match was closing the hour mark when Sergio Ramos’ beautiful through-ball found Arbeloa’s run perfectly but the latter was unable to cut the ball back to our forwards. Even though we dominated the game the number of times we had tested Dani Hernandez was far and few. Meanwhile, Murcia brought on Chando for Abraham Quesada. Real almost had their third when Pedro Leon played a beautiful/cheeky lob to catch Benzema on the run perfectly. The Frenchman’s shot hit the underside of the crossbar and fell to Ronaldo who was offside. And I was beginning to think if Benzema would ever score!
In the next minutes there were three changes made. Two for Murcia and one for us. Miguel Albiol, Raul Albiol’s sibling, made way for Camara while Rosquette was taken out for Canadas. Real brought on Di Maria for Pedro Leon who won a well-deserved ovation from the Bernabeu faithful. And the Argentine immediately tested the keeper which was probably why he was brought on. And while all this was happening Mourinho was sitting in the front row issuing orders to Aitor Karanka as animated as ever.
The third goal did come and as expected Di Maria was the creator. Xabi Alonso found a free Di Maria on the right whose low drive with the outside of the left foot found Ronaldo inside the six yard box. All that the Portuguese had to do was be there. Someone who wouldn’t be there in our next Copa game would be Alvaro Arbeloa who was sent off after being booked for the second time in the game. Real were down to ten men for the last 10 minutes. From the resulting free-kick Murcia won a penalty. Yes folks, it was all happening out there. Xabi Alonso was adjudged to have handled the ball and Pedro stood up to take the resulting penalty. He sent St.Iker the wrong way and the score was 3-1. Real have had a history of being knocked out on away goals and this seemed like one of those days.
But that wouldn’t be the case. Angel “The Angel” Di Maria came to our rescue winning a penalty for us. And to everyone’s surprise it wasn’t Ronaldo or Alonso who were tugging to take the kick. Benzema placed the ball on the spot and stepped and slotted the ball home confidently delighting not only the fans but also the players and the media so much that the headline on AS read “Even Benzema Scored!”. Benzema though was more happy with the way he was feeling as each day passed saying:
Scoring is always important, but what is even more significant is that I feel better and better each day.
The Madridistas would feel even better soon as Real Madrid won a free-kick just outside the box after yet another hand ball. Xabi Alonso shot low and the ball went in off a Murciano. Xabi of course was given the goal. Even Xabi Alonso scored, I thought.
Game, set and match, Real Madrid.
My men of the match choices were pretty easy. Pedro Leon until he was there was involved in all of our plays. He was simply fantastic showing us fans why he deserves to play more regularly. He was replaced by Angel Di Maria who showed us why players like Pedro Leon are still on the bench. Both of them were sensational and made a huge impact on the game. I know that Granero too had a good game but I doubt if it was a MVP-esque performance. The same applies to Karim. Sergio Ramos was actually brilliant. The fact that he is able to adapt so quickly wherever he plays simply amazes me every time it happens. He made sure that Carvalho was not missed. Arbeloa and Marcelo virtually had no work in defense. All their duties were offensive ones. Diarra was solid. He played a good destructor. I’ve already spoken about Canales so I’ll skip him. Alonso and Ronaldo were simply Alonso and Ronaldo. Enough said. Higuain was elated by the fact that he scored finally. His reaction to the goal displayed relief more than joy actually.
As far as the overall match is concerned, one of the positives that we can take out of the game is that we did not lose possession cheaply. We had the ball and we looked like we wanted to have the ball. The ideal way to play knock-out football if you ask me. After the game Pedro Leon told us why he thought we dominated the game:
This team’s attitude is great no matter who plays. Murcia really fall back to defend, but the first goal made them change strategies. We were given more space to work with and the chances came one after another.
That sums the game itself actually. Real went ahead virtually even before the game had started. And that piled on the pressure on the Murcianos. They had to score to stand a chance. They moved forward and Real capitalized. As simple as that. Mourinho was appreciative of our opponents though, saying:
It was a good match. Murcianos can be pleased with their team’s performance. They put Real Madrid in a bind. Madridistas can also be happy because they got over the Alcorcon and Real Union debacles. Now we must wait and see who we draw in the next round.
Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa, Albiol, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Granero, Mahamadou Diarra, Pedro León (Di María 71′), Canales (Xabi Alonso 47′), Benzema, Higuaín (Cristiano Ronaldo 47′);
Real Murcia: Dani Hernández, Mario Marín, Gotor, Amaya, Góngora, Isaac, Urzaiz, Albiol (Cámara 65′), Rubén Rosquete (Cañadas 69′), Pedro, Abraham Quesada (Chando 60′);
1-0, 4′: Granero;
2-0, 44′: Higuain;
3-0, 76′: Ronaldo;
3-1, 83′: Pedro (Pen);
4-1, 86′: Benzema (Pen);
5-1, 90′: Alonso;
Referee: Paradas Romero
Booked: Granero (10), Diarra (37), Canales (14), Alonso (80), Urzaiz (86), Miguel Albiol (23), Gongora (46), Mario Marin (56), Canadas (89)
Sent off: Mourinho (38), Arbeloa (30, 78)
Notes: Last 32 of the Copa Del Rey. Real qualify to last 16 on a 5-1 aggregate
Played at: Santiago Bernabeu
Men of the match: Pedro Leon & Angel Di Maria