Sporting Gijon 0-1 Real Madrid
Real Madrid battled past 19 fouls, 6 yellow cards, a red card and an extremely hostile atmosphere at El Molinon to grab three points thanks to a solitary Gonzalo Higuain goal to silence Manolo Preciado and the Sporting fans and regain the top spot in the Primera Division table. It was once again Karim Benzema who played the super sub role as it was his effort that led to the eventual goal eight minutes from time. Iker Casillas proved for the umpteenth time that he is still the best goalkeeper in the world by making yet another top notch save from a David Barral header which could have easily been Sporting’s equalizer. We were jeered, booed and whistled continually by the crowd but the players remained focus to finish the job off which was particularly important considering all the happenings prior to the game.
Valdano said it all about the game when he remarked that the match had more fighting than actual playing in it. Preciado’s men’s attitude was crystal clear. They went for the players from the word go and it looked as though the only place where they wouldn’t foul was their own penalty box. But that failed to bother our men as they proved that they too had mettle and the first chance of the game came within the first ten minutes. Ozil’s lay off from Pepe’s pass found Higuain’s run perfectly but Pipita’s low drive across goal met the post and went straight to Juan Pablo’s hands. And that was as close as we would get in the first half as Sporting failed to let us settle. But we did trouble their defense constantly with Ronaldo and Di Maria doing a fair bit of dribbling going past three to four defenders at a time only to be fouled by all three or at least one of them. Real then tried the aerial route with Di Maria repeatedly crossing in from the right but sadly all of them were cleared easily by Sporting’s defense. One other disappointment were our set pieces. There were a lot of free kicks that we won and from a few good positions. The fact that we were not able to materialize any says a lot about that side of our game. Real continued to attack and Sporting continued to throw whatever they had at us. Hell, even their fans started throwing stuff. But Real saw them all off. The game was still 0-0 with a half to be played.
Following the interval, four minutes into the second half, Di Maria brought out the best from Juan Pablo from a wonderful shot that was going into the top corner after he had cut in from the right. All this reminded me of last season when Real were repeatedly denied by Juan Pablo as Sporting held on to a 0-0 draw. The game did have a lighter side to it, believe it or not, when Sergio Ramos was asked to leave the field for sporting number 4 on his jersey and number 3 on his shorts. How he ended up wearing Pepe’s shorts, I dunno. With 63 minutes gone Real brought on Karim Benzema for Angel Di Maria to give a different dimension to our attack. Di Maria was active when he was on the field but I am sure the management had the physical nature of this game in mind when they made the replacement. Juan Pablo continued to save the blushes for Sporting as he brought about yet another splendid save this time to deny Gonzalo Higuain who only had the keeper between himself and the goal. Sporting would have gone ahead a minute later when Sangoy fired just wide of the far post after being put through. But that was just an one-off chance as with quarter of an hour to play Juan Pablo was made to deny Real again this time through Benzema’s shot from outside the box. It did look like one of those nights when things didn’t go well and Sporting made a couple of changes bringing in Barral and De Las Cuevas for Carmelo and Sangoy.
The last ten minutes brought about all the exciting moments of the game. Firstly we went ahead in the 82nd minute when Karim Benzema powerfull headed Sergio Ramos’ cross which Juan Pablo could only scupper leading to Higuain tapping in from inside the six yard box. A minute later Iker Casillas showed the world why we call him St.Iker when he reacted in a lightning quick manner to deny a darting header from David Barral. That sapped out all the confidence that Sporting had of scoring. Lass came on for Higuain in the 84th minute to stabilize the defensive side of the midfield and Arbeloa replaced Ozil in the 88th minute further solidify the defense. Three minutes into added time Botia made a deliberate foul on Ronaldo to earn a direct red. Ronaldo clamored “Mas, Mas” in the bring it on sense but that was as much as what was left in the game. Our players celebrated the sending off as much as they celebrated the goal and the game ended 1-0 in favor of the good side.
Following the game Ronnie spoke about the coach:
The coach gave us the right instructions despite not being with us on the pitch. He deserves the victory. We scored late, but we scored. It was a tough game ad we showcased a good attitude. We had many chances on goal. We played to win and we don’t care about anything else that may have happened. We are proud of this victory.
And the captain spoke about the crowd and the coach.
The game was complicated for many reasons, such as the comments made before the match, the atmosphere at the stadium… We stepped up to the challenge and earned three vital points. In all fairness, the atmosphere tonight was hostile. The home crowd supported its team 100%, which is normal. We responded well to that. Regarding what was said, I limit myself to defending my coach. I respect other opinions, but I do not share them. I stand by my coach, who is the best.
But to me it was Higuain who summed it all up perfectly.
It was a very tough game given the atmosphere at the stadium and everything that happened on the pitch. We expected it, but we won and took three vital points. We knew Barcelona didn’t drop points yesterday and we had to win. This is a very important victory because points like these may decide the title. It’s important for us to be leaders when we play at the Camp Nou. I was substituted soon after scoring, but that’s up to the coach. What matters is I’m very happy with my performance.
It couldn’t have been better written. We needed three points from a crucial game. We knew that it would be tough. We also knew that it is games like these that win you titles. And we did a good job. The only worry coming out of the game would be that Carvalho picked up an ankle knock during the course of the game and the extent of the niggle remains to be seen. But I doubt if it would culminate to be anything serious.
Right then, the international break is on and with Portugal playing Spain and England playing France it should be fun to watch. The players have been given a well deserved rest for a couple of days and should be back by Tuesday. But that’s not gonna stop me from writing. Before I sign off here are the match stats.
Sporting de Gijón: Juan Pablo, Lora, Gregory, José Ángel, Botía, Rivera, Diego Castro, Eguren (Luis Morán 88′), Carmelo (De las Cuevas 73′), Nacho Novo, Sangoy (David Barral 80′);
Real Madrid: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho, Marcelo, Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Özil (Arbeloa 91′), Cristiano Ronaldo, Di María (Benzema 66′), Higuaín (Lassana Diarra 86′);
0-1, 84’: Higuaín;
Referee: Turienzo Alvarez
Booked: Diego Castro Gimenez (11), Gonzalo Higuaín (35), Gonzalez Carmelo (45), Sami Khedira (45), Sebastián Eguren (72), Alberto Ramos (82), Miguel de las Cuevas (89), Luis Morán (89)
Sent Off: Alberto Botía (90)
Notes: 2010/2011 Spanish Primera División
Played at: El Molinón
Men of the match: Iker Casillas, Cristiano Ronaldo