One of the keys to playing well against Real Madrid? Not being afraid, yet not doing that with reckless abandonment. Being physical, being aggressive, and knowing where to press. Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t score for the first time in a league match since the loss in the Clasico.
At least he had someone to make it up for him. Real Madrid left Pampalona with a 2-2 draw against an Osasuna side that is always very difficult to beat at home. Sergio Ramos was sent off along the way (Osasuna later on lost one player as well, and the second lead a minute later), Ronaldo had some awful misses early on, but in general it was a lucky escape for Real Madrid, who simply didn’t play well in a very tough ground.
One interesting aspect of this match was seeing how Gareth Bale has turned into someone without a bit of defensive awareness, as Carlo Ancelotti preferred taking him off with only 10 men on the pitch and bringing in Angel Di Maria. Yes, Bale, who was a left back for quite a few years, is a worse defender than Angel di Maria.
Another interesting change Ancelotti made was not bringing on a centre back, but using Xabi Alonso instead of Ramos, playing next to Pepe, while Luke Modric was left to try and keep the midfield together. It was quite clear the Croatian had no business filling that job with 10 men, and when he was taken off for Nacho, leaving Real Madrid with three in the back while Alonso moved back up to his natural position, things started looking much better.
Any dropped point in this championship race becomes crucial later on, especially when Barcelona rebound from their loss in Bilbao by narrowly beating Villarreal thanks to another double from Neymar. However, losing points in Osasuna is almost tradition for Real Madrid, which means that a 2-2 draw there might not be such a horrendous result.
What should worry a bit more is the softness displayed by the Real Madrid players in front of the raucous fans and a fired up Osasuna team. Not everyone has this kind of passion and drive during their home matches, but teams that do their homework well can learn from this on how to make Real Madrid look absolutely normal early in matches and make things very complicated for them. Earlier on this season the referee saved them from similar situations twice. This time, one might say it went against them.
Maybe it simply comes down to Ronaldo scoring or not. His chances come anyway, although he had only one really good one against Osasuna, something he usually scored 90% of the time. Maybe that’s all the difference – Ronaldo shooting 7-8 times during a match, and one of those shots going through instead of sailing wide or high. If that’s all that separates between wins and losses, “good” performances and “bad” ones, why do we need the other 10 players on the pitch?