Posted by hiphopmama on January 14, 2009
Mallorca 0-3 Real Madrid
- 0-1 Robben, 3′
- 0-2 Raul, 17′
- 0-3 Sergio Ramos, 66′
It was only Mallorca, a slumping team that was missing a few key players due to suspensions. Their injury list is still replete with all-star caliber players (as if that meant anything in a European football context – bear with me). And they still sit woefully behind Barça in La Liga standings.
Yet even with all that, there has been a certain transformation of the squad since Juande Ramos took over. Other than that stinging loss to their Catalan rivals at the Camp Nou, Real Madrid has not lost a game under the new coach and, what’s more, they haven’t even conceded a goal, beating Zenit 3-0 in Champions League, Valencia 1-0, and Mallorca 3-0. That is quite a statistic from a team that had looked abysmal in defense under Schuster. It helps that players like Pepe and Cannavaro are starting to come back from injury, but that is far from the whole story. The team as a whole just looked more composed in the new system, holding their lines better and playing better positional defense than any we had seen previously in the season. Bringing in Lassana Diarra has helped considerably, and so has his partnership with Gago in central midfield, effectively shielding a back line that has looked susceptible this year. Oh, and Iker Casillas looks superhuman again. One of the Real Madrid bloggers made the point that Schuster had to go if for no other reason than because the porous defense was causing Casillas to slip from his best-in-the-world form. With Ramos at the helm, he is once again San Iker, making world-class saves routinely and maintaining all those clean sheets Real has accumulated.
With the three consecutive wins, and the 3-all Valencia-Villarreal draw, Real Madrid now magically sits in second place, ahead of Sevilla on goal differential and eight points adrift of league leaders Barcelona. With reinforcements coming in the form of new signings and players returning from injuries, it’s hard to believe they won’t continue to pour it on. The question I have is how long will the honeymoon last? It’s like with a new pitcher in baseball – at some point, the other teams are going to catch up with what you’re doing and devise a way to deal with the onslaught. That isn’t quite as true when you can dish out ever increasing amounts of money to improve your team, but the other well equipped teams will eventually pick them apart and at least slow them down, and then we will see how Ramos counters.
In the meantime, Raul just keeps creeping up on Di Stefano…
Highlights, set to some absurd background music:
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, bernd schuster, cannavaro, di stefano, gago, highlights, iker casillas, juande ramos, lassana diarra, mallorca, pepe, primera liga, raul, real madrid, robben, scores, sergio ramos, sevilla, valencia, villarreal | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on December 10, 2008
- 1-0 Raul, 25′
- 2-0 Robben, 50′
- 3-0 Raul, 57′
So Schuster was finally sacked and – wait for it – Juande Ramos, fresh off his firing from Tottenham, was hired as his replacement. Word is that the Porn Star knew Real were in talks with Ramos, which may explain his volatile behavior of late. On second thought, he’s always been good for some off the wall comments, so it was all in character after all.
All that matters for the team now, though, is that they got a win under the new coach, and a convincing one at that. Sure, they were just playing Zenit in a game with no real consequences, but that is exactly the kind of scenario that found Madrid lacking so many times already this year. It wasn’t a flawless victory, but neither was it as nervy as many of their other wins have been.
To start, I liked the lineup Ramos fielded, considering all the injury problems: Dudek; Salgado, Ramos, Cannavaro, Marcelo; Gago, Guti, Robben, Van der Vaart; Raul, Higuain. Getting Robben back made all the difference in the world, as he showed his ability to spark the offense and facilitate the play going forward. All three goals were a result of the interplay between Robben and Raul, who became the Champions League all-time leading scorer with 64 goals. The first was due to a mistake by the Zenit goalie, who didn’t properly handle a cross by Robben and left it for Raul to clean it up by tapping it past him and into the goal. Raul returned the favor by feeding Robben for a beautiful chip shot on the second. And Raul topped even that by nonchalantly chipping the keeper with his left foot off yet another ball from Robben. The first was fortuitous, but the last two were things of beauty and showed how much Real have missed having a winger of Robben’s quality. Now if he could only stay healthy…
Juve drew 0-0 with BATE, so they finish top of the group on goal differential. All the groups are so stacked with quality teams in both first and second place that it should make little difference going into the knock-out stages.
It was an important win for Los Blancos under the new coach, especially going into the match-up with Barcelona this weekend. As Schuster so bluntly acknowledged, they are clear underdogs, but with Real you never know. It’s not going to turn their sputtering season around immediately, but it could be the start of better things. Still, I’m not holding my breath.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: bernd schuster, champions league, juande ramos, raul, real madrid, robben, scores, zenit st. petersburg | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 17, 2008
After another disappointing loss, their third in four games, the Real Madrid coach was rumored to be on the hot seat for not getting the desired results from his all-star squad (read here about his stay of execution). The loss to Valladolid was indeed painful, in a different way than those losses to a resurgent Juve team, as Real once again looked hapless at the back and frankly uninterested in doing anything about it. It was a listless effort against a spunky team that, no matter how spurred on by their home fans, Real should have beat.
Still, when I heard about Schuster facing possible dismissal if his team lost that game all I could think was, “Only in soccer.” (Or football, or top flight European football – take your pick.) There is lots of talk about the “coaching carousel” in certain U.S. sports, particularly basketball, but it doesn’t even come close to approaching the kind of musical chairs that goes on in the big European leagues. Real Madrid is a case in point. Fabio Capello is brought in for ’06-’07, and he leads the team to a title. It was a grind, and it came down to the last week, but the team got it done. It wasn’t enough, though, and he was fired ostensibly for not playing the kind of football the Real Madrid faithful were used to seeing, adopting a more defensive style that was less flashy than the (notably title-less) Galacticos teams. So next up is Bernd Schuster, who brings back the razzle-dazzle (thanks, Ray Hudson) and leads the team to its second title in two years. So now, early on in the year and after the team’s first league loss, he is potentially on his way out, because these clubs operate on the Janet Jackson principle: what have you done for me lately?
I’ve always been a proponent of giving coaches time to prove their worth, especially if they come in with proven track records to back them. I’m admittedly a noob when it comes to European football, but my experience with the NBA tells me that you have to be patient. It takes time to come in, get a feel for the team culture, assemble the players you want on the roster, institute a new system (if necessary), and change the established mentality, all before you can expect to start winning. It doesn’t always take this long, but when it doesn’t, you can be assured that the system and players were already mostly in place before the new coach swept to power. Larry Brown ended up leading the Pistons to their first title in 14 years, but he did so with a team that Rick Carlisle assembled and brought back from the abyss and into contention. The addition of Rasheed Wallace in Brown’s first year was the thing that probably put them over the top and helped them beat my beloved Lakers. Similarly, when Flip Saunders came in and instituted a more open, offensive style – which was what management wanted from Carlisle all along, in addition to a more personable attitude – he led essentially the same group to the NBA Finals only to see them lose a tight battle to the Spurs. Jon Gruden propelled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a championship in 2002 on the back of Tony Dungy’s grunt work bringing that group together and instituting their renowned defense. Rotating new coaches in and out of already solid teams – as all of these big clubs are – is bound to be a 50-50 endeavor, yielding results as often as “disappointments,” however psychos like Ramon Calderon define those terms.
Thinking about these various coaches leads me to the conclusion that European football coaches are simultaneously more and less valued than coaches in the big sports in the U.S. Coaches in Europe are often superstars to the same extent as their players are, and their every move is scrutinized by the press and rival teams. Phil Jackson is only half jokingly self-dubbed the “Zen Master,” but it doesn’t approach the level of devotion that trails “The Special One” who currently resides in Milan. Despite this, even these larger than life coaches are rather easily disposed of and often for reasons that are entirely foreign to a stateside fan like myself. The Pistons ditched Carlisle partially for his surly demeanor as well as for a difference in opinion over team strategy, but it’s rare for feuds between coaches and team managers to be nearly as direct or as public as they are in Europe. Mourinho chafed under Abramovich’s insistence on Shevchenko’s position with Chelsea and was fired after taking the club to two consecutive league titles, while Capello was unceremoniously disposed of by Madrid for winning the title with less style than the Madridistas demanded. It’s hard for me to imagine an NBA or NFL coach sacked immediately after leading a team to a championship, no matter what justifiable reasons team management or owners might have. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it makes more sense to me that, if you’ve just come off a good performance, you might not want to shake things up. Then again, when you have the ability to just buy and buy and buy more talent, you have no incentive to work on building from what you already have, as happens in U.S. sports with at least a pretense of a salary cap. Instead, you can just ditch whatever doesn’t instantly work and move on to the next quick fix. Unfortunately, it seems like you might get just that – a QUICK fix that doesn’t serve your long-term interests.
But what the hell do I know? I’m just a dumb Yank.
Posted in general, nba, nfl, soccer | Tagged: bernd schuster, buccaneers, chelsea, epl, fabio capello, jon gruden, jose mourinho, larry brown, pistons, primera liga, real madrid, rick carlisle, roman abramovich, shevchenko, tony dungy | Leave a Comment »