- 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.