miércoles, 11 de noviembre de 2009

Real's Copa del Rey ridicule

Tuesday was Copa del Rey night, and Diego Maradona, whose Argentina side will play Spain in a prestige friendly in Madrid this weekend, was faced with the choice between watching his former club, Barcelona, or the club where his son-in-law Sergio Aguero plays (Atlético de Madrid, at whose ground, besides, the friendly will take place).

Finally, he did neither, and he appeared in the flesh at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu for the Real Madrid v Alcorcón tie. From a neutral point of view, he ended up choosing a game with only one goal in it above matches with five and six respectively. But, having personal connections with Barcelona and Atlético, I'm sure he enjoyed witnessing Real's downfall.

Real Madrid have been eliminated from the Copa del Rey by a third division club for the second year running, and this time by a 4-1 aggregate over two legs. Real could only beat Alcorcón 1-0 at home on Tuesday night, with the goal coming only in the 81st minute, scored by Rafael van der Vaart. The team from south Madrid defended their shock advantage from the first leg well and enjoyed had their share of the so-called 'luck of the champions', when two of Real's best chances, from Raúl González and Ruud van Nistelrooy, crashed against the woodwork.

However, Real's ridicule is still notorious and remarkable.They keep showing an alarming lack of penetration down the wings and, this time, also a lack of accurate firepower from outside the box. Their preferred method of attempting to score, passing and dribbling until you run out of pitch, doesn't work against packed defences, in particular when the opponents defend a good result.

Besides, Real show an alarming tendency to fall into periods when nothing happens. You know all those passages of play from a football match that get edited out of highlight programmes because there's nothing going on during them? The first half of this match seemed to be made up almost entirely of that type of fluff. That's the kind of thing that happens to this team lately. Suddenly you look at the watch and you realise that twenty minutes have gone by without anything of note occurring.

Add to this the recent double-header in the Champions League against Milan, from which Real got just one point, and you're left with a team very unsuited to cup football, and totally tone-deaf to any sense of occasion. Had they beaten Milan at home on matchday three, Real would have been almost through to the second round, leaving, as an added bonus, the Milanese down and out. Instead, Real lost 3-2 and followed up with a 1-1 draw away. Now Marseilles loom ominously in the rear view mirror, and on this kind of form, Madridistas will be watching the last-matchday visit to southern France from behind the sofa. In the league, Real will flourish, because there's room for mistakes (indeed, if Barcelona weren't so brilliant, Real would be a shoo-in for the Liga title), but when the must-win matches come, they are not being won at the moment.

The same feeling can be applied to the Alcorcón affair: this team should have been brushed aside with no problem at all, in particular over two legs. By decision of the Spanish FA, all six of the surviving third division sides were made to play against last season's top six teams in the top division, guaranteeing in each case a big pay day for the lower side and a very beatable opposition for the seeded team.

Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Villarreal and Atlético duly got past their assigned hurdle, sometimes with great ease. In fact, Atlético, starting their game just one hour before Real's, less than five miles away, were already 4-0 to the good against Marbella by the time Real kicked off. El Atleti, in the relegation places in the league, ended up with an 8-0 aggregate score, Sevilla 9-3 against Ciudad de Lorquí, and Barcelona 7-0 against Cultural Leonesa.

By the way, remember how, as of ten days ago, Cultural striker Jito had scored all nine of his team's league goals? Well, make it now 12 out of 12. La Cultu have played two matches since then. Jito missed the first through suspension (a 2-0 defeat against section leaders Eibar) and then scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 home victory against Barakaldo. Cultural play in white and their club crest looks a lot like Real Madrid's, only with a rampant lion in the middle. So, in the unlikely case that Jito moves to a bigger team dressed in white and with a similar club crest this winter market, remember you read it here first.

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