A match that shouldn’t have been played at all eventually went in the right direction. Real Madrid had no use of skills and dribbling ability. Just will power and aggression especially without Cristiano Ronaldo, who did open the scoring but was forced to leave at halftime due to the nasty gash above his eye caused right off the bat.
A win is a win is 3 points, even if it’s on a soaked pitch that doesn’t allow the ball to travel too far or bounce too high; even if all the passing ability and technique of Angel di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Xabi Alonso have no real use in what was almost a mud fight. Playing in Levante is never easy for Real Madrid, but horrific coverage on two set pieces delivered by Xabi Alonso, once finding Ronaldo and later youngster Alvaro Morata to win the match.
In between was a whole lot of splashing and nothing much else. Jose Mourinho decided that 1-0 is good enough for him, and sending in a quality player for Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t a good idea. Wrong. Just by sending the message (and Raul Albiol onto the pitch), Levante got the message it was time to attack. This isn’t the first time that Mourinho’s negative tactics send out the wrong message to his team and their opponents, landing them in a sticky situation. Eight points (and almost 10) didn’t just disappear into thin air because of some Barcelona conspiracy.
There has been a lot of talk in the Madrid press recently about Mourinho not developing young players; not integrating them into the squad. But Real Madrid aren’t Barcelona. The only way of thought is win now, as much as possible. Nothing else is acceptable. Few managers can handle that kind of pressure. Mourinho is one of those few, but don’t expect him to give plenty of chances to would-be stars just because it’ll make the pundits happy. Mourinho coaches teams that are ready to win now, not in construction projects.
Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t have much of an influence on the match, but still managed to score. Even half-blind, with the cut over his eye swelling as the first half progressed, there was never any doubt he’ll find the net when the ball dropped to his feet, six meters from goal, as Gustavo Munua just waiting to pick it out of his goal.
Xabi Alonso missed a penalty kick, and might have ended up as the big loser of the match. But he was the driving force, along with Kaka, now accustomed to his 20 minute role, for Real Madrid’s winning goal. Before Kaka entered, Levante looked like the team closer to get a winning goal. Maybe the soggy pitch was more to their liking. Long balls and a bit more of battle form, better equipped for the harsh conditions.
Real Madrid didn’t try to win by playing better football. They simply fought their way back, and it was another Xabi Alonso cross that found a wide open Morata to score the winner. The rest was the champions of Spain and one of the richest clubs in Europe simply letting balls fly into the stands, clearing anything that falls to their feet.
Not pretty, but that’s what you have to do without you best player and mother nature turning against you. Eight points is still a lot to cover, with Barcelona in almost perfect form, but it’s not 10. There’s still hope, and plenty to fight for.