Numancia 0-2 Real Madrid
- 0-1 Raul, 48′
- 0-2 Robben, 56′
This was the game where Raul finally caught up with the illustrious Di Stefano, equaling his total of 307 goals for Real Madrid and coming one step closer to passing the legendary Argentine in the record books. It wasn’t a pretty game, or even an interesting one for that matter, but it was yet another in a long line of matches under Juande Ramos that saw the Merengues pull out a victory and keep a clean sheet despite a middling performance. If all you can ask for are results, then Ramos has certainly bolstered his credentials since joining the club, winning every match and conceding just one goal – you know, aside from that one loss to some guys from Catalonia.
Both goals were created by – you guessed it – Arjen Robben. For the first, Robben nimbly skipped his way through a pack of defenders and then calmly laid the ball off to Higuain on the left. Higuain’s strike was parried by the Numancia keeper, but it landed perfectly for Raul, who poked it home into the empty net before running to the sideline and pointing to the name on his jersey in recognition of the historic goal. Right place, right time yet again. The second goal, on the other hand, was Robben’s work 100%. He dribbled his way in and out of defenders, moving to the left at the edge of the penalty area before setting up a beautiful left-footed shot to beat Juan Pablo Colinas and secure all three points for Madrid.
Nothing much else of note happened all game. Numancia had a few chances early on and Casillas was on top of it, as always, but the second half was slim pickings for them, aside from a couples stabs taken by Barkero. Real played cautious football and were rewarded for it with the clean sheet, but without Robben’s creativity you get the sense it might have been a fruitless offensive effort. The same can be said of most of their games in 2009, as the Dutchman has been about the only spark for the team, even if he does get caught up in his own dribbling prowess and ignore open teammates from time to time. Relying so heavily on a player so prone to injury seems like a shaky endeavor, but I suppose Ramos will cross that bridge when he comes to it and keep banking on Robben’s offense until Mr. Glass breaks down again. You have to wonder what happened to the Higuain we saw early in the year, although his time on the ball has certainly diminished since Robben returned to the lineup. As long as they’re scoring enough to keep winning games, it remains pure speculation, though.
With Sevilla’s loss to Sporting Gijon this weekend, Madrid moved solidly into the second place spot, six points clear of the third place side. Of course, Barcelona managed a hard fought victory in a game many expected them to stumble in against Racing, so Los Blancos remain twelve points back of the leaders. It seems increasingly clear that Barça are not going to slip up, at least not enough to hurt them much, and that they will hold on to win the title. But if Real Madrid can stay close enough to keep the pressure on them, they will already have salvaged the season and set themselves up nicely for next year when they will hopefully have a fully rejuvenated squad to work with. Whether or not Juande Ramos will still be at the helm remains to be seen, but since all the Arsene Wenger talk seems to be little more than a pipe dream, I imagine we’ll see more of Ramos in the near future. Not that it matters much in Madrid, but he has earned a little extra time with the way he regrouped his players after the stuttering start to the year under Schuster. Plus he doesn’t have that stupid porn ‘stache – that’s always a mitigating factor.