Real Madrid has now had its first defeat of the season by losing 1-0 to Levante in Valencia. This third game of the season was always going to be difficult because of Levante’s well organised defence and also the amount of effort that they put in to give their opponents a tough time. If the players and the management were unaware of the opponents might then they could have reflected on last season;s 0-0 draw where we created plenty of chances, had plenty of shots on goal but in the end managed to come back with only a single point. This time, however, we’re coming back with zero. Around Kones scored the only goal of the game in the 68th minute. Here are my 10 conclusions from the game :
- The lineup from the start seemed more defensive than what it should have been. Ronaldo who had been nursing a bruise to his ankle from the game in midweek (at Zagreb in the UEFA Champions League) was on the bench, which was a smart move. But the idea to have Ozil and Higuain on the bench confused me. So the starting lineup looked like – Casillas ; Pepe, Carvalho, Ramos, Marcelo ; Alonso, Khedira ; Kaka, Di Maria; Coentrao and Benzema. Why wasn’t a combination of Benzema and Higuain used up ahead which would have been more attacking in nature than either pushing up with Kaka and/or Coentrao? And not questioning the versatility of Coentrao here but he played as LB for Benfica and at best he can play as a DM but as an attacking option, I don’t think so.
- I would make it a separate point to ask why Granero wasn’t included in the squad, let alone the starting 11! He has shown commitment to the club, he has trained with the club as and when he’s been asked to and he cut his holidays short to be part of the team, what more is expected out of him? He would have made much more sense in midfield yesterday but as it turns out, he was back in Madrid. I seriously hope Granero isn’t made into another Pedro Leon!
- Early on in the first half, we were dominant in terms of possession and attacking play. At one time we had 80% of the possession as compared to their 20%. However, the stat that did matter was that it was still 0-0. Benzema had a few chances, Kaka had a chance to score which he blew over. So it wasn’t that we didn’t create chances or weren’t attacking enough, it’s just that we weren’t converting those chances and making most of those attacks.
- On the red card : Khedira didn’t deserve the first yellow. Levante’s player went down way too easily for Khedira to be cautioned. He probably didn’t even touch the player but as it turned out, Khedira went into the referee’s book. The second yellow was indeed justified. Khedira got caught in the heat of things and pushed the Levante player to the ground. In any game, that’s bookable. And that’s how we were reduced to ten men in the 40th minute.
- The whole fight to get Khedira started off with Di Maria’s ridiculous lunge and then play acting, a la Busquets, in an attempt to get their player booked or sent off. But in the end, it was Khedira who got the marching orders. Why does Di Maria have to go down the way he does is something that am really interested in knowing. He has the talent, the quick feet and the skills to go past defenders then why the need to go down as if he’s been shot? After this, claiming Busquets and the likes are cheaters would be hypocritical.
- On to the team performance, it would be very difficult to say who the best performer was since the whole team looked disoriented and no one seemed to care all that much. No one was consistent enough to be the man of the match which was a deserved one. After Khedira’s sending off, Alonso tried to manage the midfield by doing all the dirty work as well as moving the ball around. To a huge extent, it looked like he was the only one who was bothered that we weren’t getting a goal!
- It would be unjust to say that Levante didn’t work for the win. They were extremely well organised in defence as their back four always remained in tandem with each other and their plan was always to go on the counter attack. Levante’s goalkeeper Munua made some crucial saves early on and Ballestros (their defender) was absolutely fantastic throughout the game. On one instance Ballestros outran Ronaldo comfortably to win the ball back which is not an easy thing to manage.
- Arouna Kones’ goal didn’t come as a surprise. Real were already being pressed to go back and out of their comfort zone and the goal was coming if some minutes before it were to be analysed. A few minutes before the goal, Levante had a glorious opportunity to score but their player shot wide. On that instance as well, the defence were caught in a bad position while Levante were quicker and stronger to progress forward.
- Mourinho got the substitutions wrong in my opinion. With the team down to ten, Mourinho subbed on Ronaldo at the start of the second half in place of Benzema. Quite strange to put in a half fit Ronaldo over the fitter Higuain and/or Ozil which may have been a wiser choice. Ozil came on as the final substitution to replace Marcelo in the 70th minute with the scoreline at 1-0. And eventually it turned out a tad too late with Ozil barely getting any touches and with the team having given up there were to be no comebacks.
- Mourinho’s post match presser was a tirade of complete and utter bullshit! He made his usual excuses and failed to acknowledge that there were mistakes and we needed to work on them. Here are some of the things he said.
The match evened out once we were down to ten men. One of the teams kept defending, albeit less, and the other wanted to attack but lacked potential to do so. We had great chances to score and we failed to capitalise on them because the pitch was in bad shape and Levante defended fiercely. There was a clear penalty that wasn’t awarded to us and it would have also meant that player’s second booking. If we had scored and they had been left with ten men the game would have been different.An important part of the meeting I had with my players today covered similar images to those of Khedira’s red card. I didn’t think one of my players could fall for such a trap.
Cristiano Ronaldo told me he wasn’t fit at 14:00. He said he could help, but that he wasn’t in optimum form, that he didn’t evolve as expected since yesterday. He wasn’t ready to play and he didn’t train yesterday.