Jose Mourinho Late Substitution Cost Real Madrid the Win?

Jose Mourinho hasn’t changed, and a tactical error late in the match cost Real Madrid a win in Moscow that would have made the second leg reduandant. Going into defensive mode just before the whistle, saying he’s happy with 1-0 win, was all too clear for everyone on the pitch.

Real did get more chances, and if Cristiano Ronaldo would have scored once more from comfortable opportunities, the late goal by Wernbloom wouldn’t really matter. But he didn’t, and instead of pushing his team on to score the second goal against a fragile CSKA Moscow back four, Mourinho decided to rely on long balls and solid defending by sending in Albiol and play with three defensive midfielders.

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Now, Real Madrid’s defense was very good on the frozen pitch. Pepe played what was probably his best game of the season. No shenanigans – simply clearing whatever was around him. Xabi Alonso and Khedira were everywhere, always providing the double team to stop a Russian attack. CSKA players played too far apart from each other, as Musa and Doumbia tried doing too much on their own. It was easy to pick apart for the Real defenders.

Moruiho’s other scare was injuries, and Karim Benzema did leave the match rather early, although nothing that came from aggressive or rough play by CSKA, who did get a fair amount of freedom from the ref to beat up on Real players, in a friendly way. Mourinho did say that Ronaldo was fouled on the play leading up to the late equalizer, which did happen, but never really blamed the referee, saying he made mistakes on both sides. Now, who said the man isn’t changing?

Some goals come from set pieces and others don’t. It’s easy to see the mistakes you make by conceding some strikes, but it’s harder in others. I don’t know what was the case tonight. What I did manage to see was that Cristiano Ronaldo was clearly fouled upon before the equaliser. It’s part of the game. The referee made mistakes for both sides.

Bringing Albiol on was a good option when they made a two-meter tall man play alongside Doumbia up front. It was a solid option to mark him in set pieces and seal the game. I very much liked his attitude on the pitch and how he interpreted what he had to do. I’m very happy with him.