Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lyon 2-0 Real Madrid

The last time Real Madrid stepped into Stade de Gerland, they gave up three goals within 31 minutes to Olympique Lyonnais at the start of their 2005-2006 Champions League campaign. It could be argued that Madrid improved this time around, giving up only two goals in the first 31 minutes, but like last year, Madrid lost their opening game, this time 2-0.

It’s almost as if Real Madrid are performing some sort of penance for their previous galactico boasts. In a cruel twist of irony, one of their current superstar acquisitions, World Cup-winning center-back Fabio Cannavaro, had perhaps the worst game of his professional career. His blunders, while not entirely to blame for the loss, were emblematic of Real Madrid’s ups and downs.

Coming off of a 4-1 victory over Levante, where Ruud van Nistelrooy began his La Liga scoring campaign with a hat trick, the Spanish giants were keen to end their streak of getting knocked out in the first round. Lyon, who have made it to the final eight in the last three seasons, saw their departed midfielder Mahamadou Diarra starting across from them in a Real kit.

And it was the Fred who dealt the first blow for Lyon in the 11th minute, sprinting clear of Cannavaro from a perfectly weighted ball from Juninho over the Italian defender’s head. Fred did well with a chip over the onrushing keeper, and Madrid were on the backfoot.

The second goal came in the 31st, when Sydney Govou sent a clever through ball for Tiago to poke in past Iker Casillas.

Casillas was tested throughout the game, with Madrid’s backline seeming hesitant and uncommitted. Lyon had 13 shots on goal to Real Madrid’s 2. With a squad of names, past their prime or not, 2 shots on goal in 90 minutes (and 4 yellow cards) is pathetic. And with 58% possession? If I wasn’t watching the game, it’d sound like they were playing like Arsenal, dribbling around and squandering chances. But it was worse than that.

With Ruud van Nistelrooy starting ahead of Antonio Cassano and Raul, the Madrid midfield showed it still hadn’t worked out its kinks, as David Beckham was more or less unheard from during the first half and was taken off after 55 minutes. The $51M spine of Cannavaro and Sergio Ramos did little to keep Juninho from testing Casillas and Florent Malouda from hitting the crossbar.

The minor bright spot came after the half, when Madrid’s new signing Jose Antonio Reyes came in for Antonio Cassano and promptly took a shot on goal, the first of the game for the Spanish side.

It is sad that Real Madrid can’t seem to catch a break. No matter how you feel about the club, its past presidencies, and any perceived arrogance, it’s a shame to see such a giant of football struggle to find its feet. What once was an overly-hyped but exciting squad is now an ageing, clique-ish team, epitomized by creaky Beckham and Raul and fat Ronaldo. As AC says, why is Robinho sitting on the bench until the 69th minute? I haven’t seen Raul do anything spectacular in years, and Robinho’s got a chance the minute he touches the ball.

As with Arsenal, we’re looking at another team in transition. In a game that becomes increasingly tighter and games more meaningful, given the various tournaments and cup competitions, both clubs are far from the days of dominance, especially in their domestic leagues. At least it’s shown that the London club can be brilliant in Europe while their domestic play is complete shite. I’m not sure the same can be said of Real Madrid.


Capello’s Real displeasure [Eurosport]
Beckham powerless [Times Online]

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