Real Madrid – A Disappearing act by Cristiano Ronaldo

Blaming the left side of Real Madrid would be true, but putting some of it on Cristiano wouldn’t be far from the truth, who did absolutely nothing to help his team’s cause in their 1-2 loss to Dortmund except for breaking away once from his marker, to score the equalizer in the first half.

The second half? The rest of the match? Jose Mourinho came out into this one hoping for a draw. Very few teams try and play Real Madrid head on, and one of them is Barcelona. Anytime someone actually tries to take over the game, it seems to surprise the two big Spanish teams, used to ten men defending behind the ball. Real used 10 minutes of pressure in both periods and just a bit of more near the end, trying to find the equalizer.

But it wasn’t good enough, when they had their short moments of momentum. The balls always went through Mesut Ozil and Angel di Maria, who was a bit too selfish with his distribution and decisions, especially in the second half. Ronaldo? The only time he was truly free from Lukasz Piszczek and Subotic was right after Dortmund’s opening goal from Robert Lewandowski, as Dortmund were still high from their lead. They didn’t make that mistake for the rest of the match.

And while Michael Essien was the weak link on the defense, playing well out of position at left back, he got no help from anyone. Jose Mourinho lost a defensive blanket with Sami Khedira early on, forcing him to bring in Luka Modric into the match; it helped the ball movement on certain moments but couldn’t really create the same kind of pressure on defense the German does.

Pepe doesn’t make many mistakes and when focused is one of the best central defenders in the world, but when he does, trying to do too much or being too clever with his passing, it’s usually a big one. Iker Casillas wasn’t exactly exempt from blame for his part in the second goal.

But we’ve gotten used to Cristiano Ronaldo elevating himself in times of need. Doing what is necessary for the team to win, not just his own glorification. He never helped Essien on the left flank, where Dortmund kept attacking with different players, switching wings non stop and creating an overload on that side (something Real should have thought of to help Essien), and never did enough to get away from the tight marking that was on him for an entire match.

A loss in Germany for Real Madrid isn’t something new, and isn’t the end of the world. Having so many injuries at full back and now in midfield as well provides a good explanation for the disappointing performance, and Manchester City’s loss at Ajax nearly seals the deal for both Real Madrid and Dortmund to qualify from the group of death.

But beyond the qualification implications, there’s finding some solutions to some problems. Essien might be better suited playing as right back while Ramos should be moved to the left; Maybe even putting Raul Albiol and Ricardo Carvalho in the lineup and letting Pepe play alongside Xabi Alonso in the midfield if Khedira is out once again; the striker rotation between Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema for yet another season has to be taking its toll on the players, who both looked bad yesterday.

Cristiano Ronaldo rarely has bad days, and even on them, he usually scores. Still, Real Madrid, with their defensive problems and sluggish attack at times (against Celta as well) can’t afford their best player to step away from the action for nearly the entire 90 minutes too often.

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