Athletic Club has been defeated (2-1) by Real Madrid. Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos have scored…
Athletic Club has been defeated (2-1) by Real Madrid. Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos have scored the goals for the hosts and Luis Prieto has done so for Athletic Club. Our team has done, without a doubt, its merits to score, but as has happened in other matches this same season, there have been too many factors against; and, if we want to yield something in this field it’s necessary to do so perfectly, which summarized, takes us to that magical triangle made up of the games’ own vertices, the always complicated work of the referees, and that pinch of luck.
Worst of all is not simply doing a commendable job and losing at the ground of a very practical Real Madrid, with little shine and the same quality as always in certain players who incline the scale without even playing a good match. What’s worse is the sporting consequences; on the short-term Murillo and Aduriz’s sanctions, and on the long-term Orbaiz’ injury, about whose severity we will be informing on Monday.
Where to start? Athletic Club presented the 4-2-3-1 announced on Thursday and have stood by it at all times. With eleven players and nil-nil, with eleven and the advantage and until this was consumed, and with one less player on the field and at a disadvantage. The team wasn’t intimidated and focused its effort with due intensity to try to get that revitalizing victory, which put Capello’s team in a serious jam. The team read the clash well, but it still lacked that destabilising touch. The same but with the quality that its members hoard are what finally gave the victory to Real Madrid.
It was an open encounter from the start. The rojiblancos pressed forward playing up to Real Madrid’s tendency of the last matches, based on the abuse of long balls. The first quarter-hour passed with alternating chances, although the first clear chance didn’t come until Raul, taking advantage of the umpteenth rojiblanco slip, finished off just wide with his left. It turned out to be the prologue to the most difficult moments of the first half: a great pass by Robinho for Salgado to finish off with a close-up volley and not much angle and which Lafuente cleared. The corner serve was almost by accident finished off, though barely wide, by Ramos. These and a counterattack that Robinho sent out in the minute 32 have been the local’s offensive assets in the first half.
Meanwhile, the promising attacks by Athletic died in the rival’s area; however, our team benefited from the strategy. Yeste deceived Casillas with his foul shot in the minute 21, but it barely went wide. Not, however, Prieto’s shot in the minute 34, with Gabilondo offside and disrupting the goalie’s view. The referee called the goal as good for the midfielder who, as happened last season, once again scored on matchday 13. Nevertheless, those who predicted that the erroneous arbitration interpretation would have its influence in the rest of the match were right. It was the first decisive play.
Three minutes later, Prieto himself headed a free kick into the area, but his pass didn’t find a target. This is how the first half ended and during the break Capello looked for more offensive strength by brining in Ronaldo and Beckham who substituted Reyes and Emerson.
With two natural-born forwards, Robinho and Raul remained at the wings and Beckham teamed up with Diarra. Before finding its attacking result, came the second decisive play of the evening when, in the 48th minute, an elbow to Sergio Ramos, who had already been warned many times without receiving a card from the referee, only deserved Aduriz the yellow; must have lacked the courage.
In addition, Rodriguez Santiago lost control of the match and couldn’t cope with the environmental pressure. Diarra was also warned and after so much rowing Van Nistelrooy enjoyed his only chance of the match after taking advantage of a rojiblanco error on the rebound, in the minute 55. A play practically that coincided with Orbaiz’ injury; the third key play of the match. The player from Navarre, with a serious injury, was replaced by Murillo and for a brief time the panorama didn’t change. Etxeberria shot a flat liner to the post with his left in the minute 58, Yeste and Aduriz harvested individual yellow cards and our team continued pressing well in the midfield and coming out dangerously on the counterattack.
In one of these counterattacks, minute 62, came the fourth decisive play. A wall by Yeste and Aduriz and the forward entered the area, when he went to finish off a defender repelled the ball which fell on feet of Gabilondo but his shot on goal was cleared with great difficulty and merit by Casillas. Immediately afterwards, a long ball sent by Sergio Ramos was cautiously brought down and controlled by Ronaldo, who was able to overcome Lafuente.
Athletic didn’t stay back. Urzaiz came in for Yeste in the minute 70, moving Etxeberria to the midfield and Aduriz to the right, but the attempt to put more pressure in the up-field didn’t last long, since in the 74th minute came the fifth key play which made things still more difficult. A high jump between Diarra and Aduriz, the umpteenth with the midfielder and Ramos, ended with both players on the ground. Immediately, a foul, indicated by the referee and witnessed by his assistants. Surprisingly, when the referee saw the blood that flowed from one of Diarra’s eyebrows, on which Aduriz’ forearm had impacted; he booked the player with the red card, a practical lesson on fair judging.
The either did the team fall back, although debuting Mané did look to position his players when Casas came on for Etxeberria, changing Exposito to the right lateral and moving Iraola to the same wing. Real Madrid had its chances on a free kick by Beckham which Lafuente cleared in the minute 79, in an arrival by Ronaldo that Lafuente saved to corner and from a pass which Robert Carlos, better than expected, blasted a ground shot from outside the area, under Iraola’s legs and straight into the net. With a ten-man side, our team accomplished that Real Madrid lose control of the ball and created, with the exception of Raul’s chip, two goal occasions. At the 88-minute mark Urzaiz combed a free kick, Gabilondo tipped it near the second wood and the ball fell to Iraola, who was alone in the area, but his cross was deflected by Casillas when it looked like it was going in. Four minutes later Van Nistelrooy, in view of the silence reigning at the Bernabéu, repelled the ball with his hands in the area. It’s possible to define Iraola’s as the sixth decisive situation of the clash, and handling could be called as in a science fiction novel.
Half a dozen plays, in favour and against, that have plotted the course of a match in which the image may have sweetened things, but never mitigates the lack of points. With that good image also came the shouting at the Bernabéu, from the rage and the suffering its team went through to win: ‘To Second, to Second’. When we do badly, voices rise, from here, there and everywhere, to remind us which is our sports objective for the current season, but they don’t know our team: it’s during these difficult days and situation when being an Athletic fan is an honour, as it is a privilege, that is not within everyone’s reach. That objective is quite difficult and we’ll have to continue facing all type of adversities, beginning, obviously, with the sports aspect. Together, we can take that first step on Sunday, against Recreativo.