Monday, 3 October 2016

Zidane Equals Rafa Real Record

There were whistles and some boos at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday afternoon as Real Madrid struggled to overpower La Liga midtable visitors, Sociedad Deportiva Eibar. Only wrestling the Basques to a one all draw. The visitors having earned a return to the top flight following Elche’s suspension after alleged financial irregularities. Although Eibar arrived in Primero the previous season they struggled and were relegated from the promised land in 2014. On Sunday they did not look out of place with a physical game based on speed and width that really tested Madrid many times. 

In fact, they played everything that Real Madrid dislike in their opponents given they prefer to defend by being compact and tight across the midfield. Relying on the neat and tidy footwork of Luka Modric and James Rodriguez to force gaps up front. Neither of whom were available for the Eibar clash this weekend. That early industry of the visitors earning that vital goal in the fifth minute - after a dink from Fran Rico at ten paces - when the Eibar player caught Rafael Varanne out of place. All leaving keeper Kaylor Navas with no chance at close range. 

The home side then struggling to create chances albeit fielding the BBC up front – Bale, Benzema and Cristiano. The problems though highlighted at the back where Daniilo, Varanne, and Pepe looked vulnerable to the speed of every Eibar attack, with only Carvajal really controlling the right flank. So Madrid notch up the third consecutive home draw and leave Zinedine Zidane facing some calls of crisis from the press and other Real watchers. 

After all the coach now equals Rafa Benitez’s bad start of last season with only fifteen points from 7 games and a balance that ended of the former’s career at Madrid. But the fact that Barcelona lost away to Celta de Vigo may spare him some of further pressure – which was heaped too quickly on Rafa – as he never the media’s choice. Clearly though when Ronaldo misfires the team does similarly and too often dragging the team down too. As is his want he demands the ball all the time, even if he is the worst option, and on days like Sunday he just seemed unable to get some of the clear chances away. At one time late in the second half it made sense to take him off. 

But as Ronaldo does not do substitutions it was Benzema who made way for Alvaro Morata at the start of the second half. Although also proving ineffective against an Eibar’s back four that were resolute and became firmer as the game dragged into the last quarter. The other change by Zidane being Nacho for Varanne and then late in the game Marco Asensio in the middle of the park. For once Tony Kroos looked inefficient and drifted to the right trying to seek openings up ahead. But with little success. His best move a long sweeping cross field ball to Bale on the right that ten found its way back to Ronaldo on the back post – only to go over the bar.

Clearly Bale plays within himself at Real Madrid, spending large parts of the game inactive and just tracking opponents. Against Eibar it was much of the same and to see the naturally left sided player battle on the right - is both magical and frustrating. He is much more effective in the game he plays for Wales. Or indeed at Spurs at left back before his move to Spain. But Ronaldo is an immovable commercial object at the Bernabeu and for him left means “left alone”. 

Ironically though it was the Portuguese striker’s cross to the far post that found Bale’s head about ten foot in the air with the Welshman easily nodding in the equaliser. But for that moment of magic however there was lots of water carrying for Bale, as Cantona would have described it. Particularly against a team like Eibar where he was operating under limited service. At times he must go home feeling he has worked only a half day compared to his workload at White Hart Lane in the past. Meanwhile on the other side Ronald tends to squander possession even if his goal records are off the charts. 

In coaching terms Sundays game was ninety minutes of frustration and for Zidane it places him with the unwanted comparison with his immediate predecessor. Albeit his former boss, Carlo Ancelotti, was in town for Champions League this week - against Atletico Madrid - that could only see the Italian squeeze a 0-0 from FC Bayern Muenchen. For Zizou though it’s a far cry from the glory of last season’s 11th Champions League win and so he now starts the usual squeamish period that affects this huge club when faced with dropped points. Yet the trickle of bad news will dissipate with the timely international break the next week with normal services resuming for the away trip to Betis on October 14th. 

Funnily enough the saving grace was that Barcelona lost away to Celta de Vigo on Sunday and as such reduces any further clamour for changes. Although the away win by Atletico at Valencia places their local rivals joint top on goal average. Meanwhile Eibar can celebrate their first ever point at the Bernabeu as well-earned after an efficient performance. Totally deserved against an out of sorts Madrid. 

Indeed, Ronaldo within hours of the whistle was in Lisbon opening his new hotel and Bale - who notched up his 50th goal for the club – was heading to Wales and then Austria with the Welsh national side. No doubt Bale will run off any of his frustrations quality at the Ernst Happel stadium at the weekend in Vienna.

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