ICYMI – the not an easy party edition
In case you missed it – Racing vs. Real Madrid [2011-09-21, Liga jornada 5, 0-0].
As Iker said, a party will not be easy. Who knew that it would also be this ugly and this frustrating. Many people are saying that parts of this game were some of the worst football Real Madrid has played in a long time. Tiene razón. And I’m tired of always hearing excuses for the bad play, always hearing that it’s the referees’ fault. Enough with that complaining, can’t we just focus on football, and preserve our dignity at the same time?
With that said, there were some good moments (admittedly, most of them did not take place during the actual game…), so don’t be put off by how this post started, because it does get better. Too bad I can’t say the same about the game…
ONE. Let’s get all the horrible things over with first. With the entire team there in Santander, the palco where the injured and those players who didn’t make the game day cut sat was full: Pepe, Coentrão, Sahin, Khedira, Altintop, Mejías. The rest were on the bench, and both groups lived the game intensely, though ultimately they ended frustrated.
TWO. This start, with only seven points earned out of a possible 12 (in four games), is the worst since the 2005-06 season, when Vanderlei Luxemburgo and his unforgettable “cuadrado mágico” were on the bench. In that season, at this point, Madrid had only accumulated six points. Madrid scored 10 goals in the first two games and none in the last two.
THREE. Cris’ pout, and Iker’s frustrated face.
FOUR. The Racing defense that so frustrated (notice a theme?) Madrid was made up of the following four players: Cristian Sánchez, with all of 57 games played in the first division; Álvaro, who was just promoted from Racing B this season; Bernardo, who has one game of experience in the first division under his belt; and Francis, the most veteran one, though the majority of his career was spent in the second division with Xerez.
FIVE. The most memorable contribution from Benzema in the game: running into and bouncing off an opponent. As he landed on his back and he kicked his legs in the air, he reminded me of a cockroach – not in the gross insect sense, but that Ronaldo/Roberto Carlos/Robinho goal celebration. And the resulting camera angle was pretty nice.
SIX. Probably more of Mou than you’ve ever wanted to see before.
SEVEN. More frustrated faces, this time on the bench. Esteban needs a haircut.
EIGHT. Now, onto the better stuff. Xabi dancing. Is there anything he can’t do? I also quite like the black tops and white shorts combination.
NINE. One of the few bright notes of the game was Rafa Varane, who played some steady football back there. He further endeared himself to me by removing his shirt after the game. Good habits start young.
TEN. Inside the palco, Fábio wore The UCLA Hat, while Sami Khedira was unable to keep his eyes of his mobile. And Fábio, Hamit and Nuri also shared some food!
ELEVEN. Remember how I said that the good moments didn’t happen during the actual game? That’s because the best moments came prior to the game. The winner of the Vuelta a España race, Juanjo Cobo, who is from Cantabria, did the ceremonial kick-off before the game (he kicked the ball to Iker). Prior to that, both teams had given him an honor guard as he walked onto the field. Cris went from asking Xabi who this guy was (and of course, Xabi is the right person to ask, and I like how he gestured to explain) to telling Marcelo that he was going to say hi (Marcelo’s all like, yeah, you go on ahead, Crís) to going up to Juanjo and shaking his hand. This is the real Cristiano Ronaldo.
Sergio Ramos and Raúl Albiol also stood up to clap, while Iker also shook El Bisonte de La Pesa’s hand.
TWELVE. Continuing on with pre-game scenes, we had Esteban Granero going over to hug our former canterano (and Míchel’s son), the gorgeous Adrián (I was looking forward to seeing him, and happy he got into the game), while Cristiano Ronaldo practiced some espaldinhas.
THIRTEEN. And these following moments are without a doubt the highlights of the day in Santander. While waiting around for the game to start, many of the players read the game program provided by Racing (or actually, looked at the pictures, since Lass, Sami, Hamit and Nuri all have limited Spanish knowledge, though I expect Sami to make real advances this year). Nuri saw something he thought was funny – that Pepe’s real name is “Képler.” He pointed that out to Altintop, then proceeded to show Pepe, who smiled, confirmed it and explained, “my father is the one who gave me that name…”
Sami Khedira proceeded to tease Pepe, so Pepe teased him right back. Meanwhile, Fábio chimed in with “Pepitoooooooo…”
Later on, Pepe decided to nuzzle Altintop – adorable!! (Hopefully he didn’t get any beard burn…) On the other side of the bench, it took just one look at El Chori to make Sergio crack up. I love these boys! And don’t these types of moments make you feel just a bit better?
FOURTEEN. The Xabi Alonso pose section.™
I’m suddenly desiring a Xabi sandwich.
FIFTEEN. Post-game declarations.
After the game, Iker told Canal+, “when you lose two consecutive away games against rivals that, with all due respect, aren’t competing for the same objectives as us… there’s nothing else to do but accept it, lift up your head and think about the next game. The image we gave is not correct, it’s not worthy of Real Madrid. We can’t allow ourselves the luxury of losing points.” Iker was also asked about Mou blaming Khedira for the previous loss. His response: “you have to understand, the míster has his temperament. People speculate and talk about it, but those of us who are on the inside know what the míster is like and he didn’t single out any players.” In the mixed zone, he said, “it’s unexplainable how a team like us with the players that we have are not able to take advantage of the opportunities we have, and we didn’t even have any in this game.”
Álvaro Arbeloa also affirmed that there are no problems with Mou and that they are all “more united than ever.” He explained, “many times we don’t understand the things that are said. There are sectors of the press that want to destabilize us. We are more united than ever with the coach. That’s why I want to deny all this information.” Xabi echoed this, saying, “we’re a united group, and we have to fight together because we can’t be divided.” He also said, “we can’t deny the evidence, the dynamics are not good and we have to change that as soon as possible.”
SIXTEEN. The Mou corner. His expressions and gestures during the game say it all, no? It’s also the same as my reactions when I heard his post-game press conference, and realized he was once again blaming things on the refereeing.
Mou said after the game that this loss was different than the one to Levante, because “we were the only team that tried to win,” so he wasn’t as worried. However, he was preoccupied with how Madrid has dropped five points in these two away games, and blamed the lack of rhythm in this game on both the lack of necessary dynamics, which has become “habitual,” and also “the injuries, that stretcher coming out for the injured, the simulations, with everything they were allowed to do… we were incapable of changing this and so we are also responsible.”
SEVENTEEN. Other notes.
– Ricardo Carvalho suffered head trauma during the game, after his head collided with one of Racing’s players near the end of the game. Once the team returned to Madrid, he was taken to the Sanitas-La Moraleja hospital, where he underwent some tests. They showed that there was nothing serious, so he was released, though he will be under observation.
– Madrid returned to training on Thursday morning to start preparing for Saturday’s game against Rayo. Ricardo Carvalho was absent, due to his head trauma, as were Pepe, Coentrão and Sahin, due to their respective injuries (they did their own recovery work). The rest of the first team players were joined by canteranos MFC Álvaro Borja Morata Martín, Nacho and Tomás Mejías. Yay, Cris is back to the old Hollywood hairstyle!
The Xabi Alonso pose section™, training special.
– speaking of Rayo, they just played Levante on Wednesday, and after the game, their coach José Ramón Sandoval spoke about the expulsion of one of his players, which he believed was unjust: “four days ago, there was a Real Madrid-Levante game and we all saw the theater put on by some players. We also saw the provocations in that game, it’s a mistake to come to Vallecas and repeat the same type of refereeing.” As I said, I’m tired about hearing about the refereeing, but it’s good to see that we’re not just being paranoid, as some would like others to believe.