The look above by Iker Casillas says it all. Puts into words what he felt along with the whole team and the fans alike. The dream for “la decima” at Santiago Bernabeu evaporated in the round of 16 yet again. Making it six years without progressing beyond this stage in the UEFA Champions League for us.
We had a great start as Ronaldo was on the scoresheet within six minutes. A neat pass over the top was cooly slotted in with his left foot right between the keepers legs. 1-0 to us on the night and 1-1 on aggregate.
Then arrived a flurry of chances which were rued rather than be converted to put the game beyond Lyon’s reach and to get hold of the tie or even literally win it.
The biggest of the chances fell to our top goal scorer in the league, Gonzalo Higuain. On the first occassion, the Argentine did very well to ease past the defence and round the goalkeeper but unfortunately for him (and us alike) the ball hit the post and the rebound fell to a Lyon player. Higuain with the form that he is in should have easily made it 2-0 on the night which would have done the team a world of good.
The second chance fell closer to half time whistle when Higuain was again in the thick of action. He received the ball and controlled it very well and made room for himself to take a right footed shot but it was saved fantastically by the keeper with a desperate dive.
In both the instances, Higuain should have done much better and its not me speaking because we lost but because of the form that he is in that he should have definitely converted those chances.
At half time it was Real Madrid 1-0 Lyon (1-1 on aggregate). We still had to score one more goal to avoid going into extra time or penalties and on the other side, we couldn’t afford to concede.
This is where everything went wrong. Post the time the referee blew the second half whistle the team switched off while Lyon suddenly sprang to life. Its like the players switched sides and the mindsets suddenly changed in the tunnel.
Lyon were attacking more and more and also were not looking fragile in their defence as they were in the first half. On the other side, we were giving away the ball cheaply and the lack of buildup added to the frustration of Higuain and our attacking line.
Eventually our defensive wall collapsed in the 75th minute as Pjanic was quick enough to be ahead of the defense and beat Iker with his left foot. A very significant goal as it put Lyon up on aggregate score of 2-1 and also they got an away goal thus forcing us to score at least two goals to go ahead.
Sadly that hope of getting a goal in the final 15 minutes didn’t happen. We didn’t create any chances or bothered their keeper to make a decent save.
At full time it was 1-1 on the night while it was 2-1 to Lyon on aggregate.
I wouldn’t be commenting on any specific players’ performances as its a collaborative effort and the team should be held responsible for the loss instead of singling out any players. The manager should not be blamed for the loss alone either as the team played stupendously during the first half and switched off during the second.
As expected, AS and Marca in Spain along with MANY MANY other newspaper dailies along with bloggers call for Pellegrini to be given the sack. He got the team off to a bad start in Copa Del Rey and now exit from the Champions League means bye bye Pellegrini? Well I don’t agree. Give the man and the team some time before they can set themselves. Haters mention how £200 million of investment by the club in acquiring failed to reap dividends but have they ever considered that the investment was more of a long term project than a short one. I agree money can’t buy trophies and the amount spent is atrocious but thats where having a stable manager and a team effort needs to step in. Its not about a single player but about the team. So my request to the board would be to let Pellegrini stay and let the squad become a team rather than a bunch of individuals taking to the field. So no more of approaching Wenger; Salgado suggesting Rafa Benitez to lead the club or any managerial changes.
Let us now focus on the league and make sure we win it. There cannot be any slip ups. Barcelona who are practically our only competition for the title are involved in other trophies already. They would sooner or later run out of breath and have a slip up. We just need to ensure that we capitalise on their slip ups!