ICYMI – the counterattacking edition
In case you missed it – Real Madrid vs. Ajax [2011-09-27, Champions League group stage jornada 2, 3-0].
Madrid’s still not where I want them to be yet, but wow, their counterattacking… that’s what brought us to victory on Tuesday night. In the first 20 minutes or so of the game, the crowd at the Bernabéu made it clear that they were displeased with how their team was playing. Then Madrid scored a goal off a counterattack (11 touches and seven passes in 16 seconds), and the game was theirs from that point on. I guess whatever tips Pep Guardiola gave Frank de Boer about Madrid did not work.
I love that Cris and Kaká were sharing a joke as they waited for the Champions League hymn to finish!
ONE. Champions League nights at the Bernabéu are always special, there’s always an electric feeling in the air.
TWO. Some pre-game scenes. Too bad Pepe was injured, since that meant that he had to show up in his own clothing, and we all know that his t-shirt and scarf collection is at times cringe-worthy. And I love the picture of Iker that they chose for his locker! Smiling Iker is always good.
THREE. The boys warming up. I’m worried by how naturally Cris converted his clasped hands into a double thumbs up. That is not good, since it means that he has done it a lot in the past, and that he’ll do it without thinking in the future. Meanwhile, one Ricky was smiling and the other was focused, as were Mesut and Sergio (for the most part). As for Iker, why does he like layering so much? It’s one of life’s great mysteries, along with the related one about why he’s so reluctant to remove his shirt. By the way, I was very happy to see Kaká start the game, and even more so since he took Ángel di María’s spot.
FOUR. While waiting to go out onto the field in the tunnel, Álvaro Arbeloa patted Iker on the ass (twice!) and then gave him a kiss and another pat, this time on the chest. Some people have all the luck. Or is Iker un tipo con suerte, because he received a kiss from Alvarito AND Sergio? I like how the door swung to block the kiss at the exact moment it was given, as if it were so hot that we couldn’t handle seeing it.
Meanwhile, Xabi was being his usual boss self, giving last-minute instructions to Álvaro and Sergio (though Sergio’s attention started wandering there at the end after he nodded to show he was paying attention), and doing hip circles.
FIVE. I can never get enough of Iker’s smile lines. And good news, it looks like the rest of Iker’s facial hair has caught up somewhat with the mustache, to give it company on that adorable face.
SIX. The goals. I bet FP’s favorite one was the first one, because his three pet signings of the 2009-10 season – Cristiano, Kaká and Karim Benzema – combined for a golazo. The other two goals were great as well.
I love how Mesut jumped on Karim’s back, and Karim carried him to the corner, and how enthusiastically Cris celebrated this goal.
For the second goal, Cris jumped into Ricky’s arms. The bromance is alive and doing well!
And Kaká seemed to be telling the critics, “¡toma!”
As for the third, the celebration showed how this team is a piña. Divided by nationalities? Ha.
Karim seemed to be smelling Kaká, and liking what he smelled. I would wager that Ricky is one of those people who always smells good, and that he smells like clean laundry. Plus, the guys are really obsessed with each other’s hair, no? And check out that forehead thing between the Spartan and the Boss! I feel bad for that Ajax player who almost got caught in the middle of the celebration…
SEVEN. Yes, he is handsome, rich and a great player.
EIGHT. The three goals that we scored last night wouldn’t have been much help had Iker not made a few fantastic saves, including this one below.
NINE. Karim Benzema had to leave the game in the 75th minute, but hopefully it’s nothing serious. Aitor Karanka said at his post-game press conference that “in principle, there’s nothing to be worried about. It was just some pain.” And Karim himself said in the mixed zone that he had a bit of pain in his back and the left abductor muscle, and that he’ll see how the abductor is tomorrow. I love his French-accented Spanish!
TEN. Hamit Altintop made his debut for Madrid, more than four months after his signing was announced, on May 19. He entered the game in the 84th minute for Mesut Özil, and didn’t really do anything out there, but just being there was enough for him, I suppose. He said after the game, “I’m very happy to have debuted. After the operation, the rehab went well and I was feeling good today. It’s not easy, but I’m taking it step by step to help out the team.”
ELEVEN. Rafa Varane became the third youngest player to debut with Madrid in the Champions, after (can you guess?) Raúl and Iker. He said after the game that “it’s incredible that at the age of 18, you’re playing and playing as a starter.” He also said, “it’s very important having Lass and Benzema at my side.”
TWELVE. A couple of observations on shirts. Cris of course popped the collar on his jersey, and I’m surprised he didn’t do the same for his jacket. Meanwhile, TVE’s cameras disappointed me by not zooming in on Kaká while he had his shirt lifted, and for continuing to zoom in on Kaká later (yes, I am very difficult to please) when there was a shirtless Sergio Ramos in the background! Shirtless! Of course Iker was strolling around there next to him, with all his shirts on.
THIRTEEN. Mesut Özil also joined in the fun, and something made him laugh while he was on the bench after being subbed out.
FOURTEEN. The Xabi Alonso pose section.™
Xabi clocked up the most mileage out of all the players on the team, with 11.997 kilometers run throughout the game. That’s no surprise, given how Xabi dominated the midfield out there. Sami Khedira was second, with 11.913 kilometers.
FIFTEEN. The Sergio Ramos hair envy section.
Thoughts on that jaunty little ponytail that Sergio wore in the morning? If he had a scrunchy, he’d look just like Sergio García…
SIXTEEN. After the game, Iker said, “we’re happy for Kaká, we know what kind of player he is and we have confidence in him. He’s a kid who is committed to himself, his teammates and his team. We want him to return to what he was, but we already know what the press is like, if he had a worse game, they would start criticizing him again.” Regarding the support he received from the fans, Iker said, “you’re always human and sometimes you make mistakes. I’m happy that people give me affection, and when I fail, I will accept it and try to smile.” He also took the time in the mixed zone to shoot down the rumors that he and Cris had an argument after Monday’s training session: “it surprised me, and when I spoke with him this morning, the only thing I could do was laugh, because I didn’t understand it… we laughed, and there really is no problem. I was astounded. The only thing we could do was laugh. I’ve been here for 12 years and one gets used to hearing all kinds of rumors. Today, we made light of it, we asked each other this morning for photos of our fight, we wanted to see them.”
I chose this picture because it doesn’t show what Iker was wearing. He was wearing that ratty old white t-shirt again. Surely he can afford something better? Plus, this is a profile picture, and we can never have enough of those in our lives (okay, in my life).
Meanwhile, the man of the night, Kaká, said, “I feel better with each passing day. Things are going well for me on the field… I don’t play to shut up the critics, but to enjoy myself. And I’m going to help this team a lot.” And the other Ricky, Ricky Carvalho, also expressed his happiness for Kaká, and complimented his partner in the defense, Rafa Varane: “despite his age, he’s very secure. He’s a great teammate in the defense.”
Meanwhile, Sergio spoke to COPE, and he was asked why his voice was so hoarse (they thought it was hoarse, I found it sexy), if it was whether he had gone out the previous night. Sergio laughed and said it was because it’s hard to make yourself heard out on the field over the roar of the crowd. In that case, Iker’s voice must be the hoarsest after the games. Guti! Guti!! GUTI!!!
SEVENTEEN. The Mou/Karanka corner.
José Mourinho served the last game of his suspension by watching the game from a private box near the presidential box, giving up his “usual” seat next to the bench. He had arrived at the Bernabéu with the rest of the team, but was not allowed to enter the locker room, so he said goodbye to them at the entrance (Cris almost didn’t see him there) and headed for his box. The box had tinted windows, meaning no one (spectators or cameras) could look inside (and possibly see Mou calling in directions to his assistants?).
In his post-game press conference, Aitor Karanka admitted that everyone was happy for Kaká: “those who have had confidence in him are happy, upon seeing the joy on his face. He deserves to be how he is now, because he’s a great player and for everything he’s gone through… Ricardo has frankly had a bad time of it… he’s very important for us and now he’s happy. He’s suffered with the injuries, with not being at the same level he was before.”
EIGHTEEN. Other notes.
The players wore black armbands as a tribute to former madridista Chus Pereda, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 73.
I don’t usually like anything the ultras do, but this made me laugh. When they saw that Altintop would be entering into the game as Madrid’s third and final substitution, they started chanting, “we want canteranos, we want canteranos…” as Esteban Granero had also been on the sidelines, warming up. I almost felt like joining in. By the way, the three players cut from the game day list were all canteranos: Nacho, Mejías (not surprising) and Callejón.
Mesut posted this adorable picture on his Facebook earlier in the day.
The boys are back in training on Thursday, after getting Wednesday off. This weekend’s game is against Espanyol on Sunday at 22h.
Good news: Capote has been released from the hospital, 14 days after suffering a heart attack while training with Lucena. However, he will have to give up his dreams of becoming a professional footballer, due to his condition. He tweeted, “after 14 very difficult days, I’m leaving the hospital, I’ve lost what I most wanted, football, but I’ve gained the most important thing, life, thank you to everyone.”
Speaking of the cantera, dairy company Grupo Leche Pascual is the cantera’s new official sponsor, with the agreement to be formally announced and presented on Thursday.
And check out this video, featuring an eight-year-old Gonzalo Higuaín, and his friends and former coaches talking about him, such as how good he was, how obsessed he was with football, how small and thin he was… Plus, there are bonus adorable mini-Argentine footballers!