A tricky match against a team fighting for survival in the La Liga ended in an impressive result thanks to some quality finishing from Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and even the resurgent Luka Modric, but it does show Real Madrid suffer from the same problems that have been haunting them all season.
It’s probably a matter of focus, as Real drop and raise their awareness levels according to their opponents. Whatever they lacked earlier this season in focus and composure in away matches, causing the huge divide between them, at second place, and Barcelona, way up there at first, 10 points ahead with a game in hand, has disappeared in the late months of the season, with Real Madrid winning 7 consecutive matches, not to mention every crucial one they’ve had.
As Kaka continues to get credit in the starting lineup (because the matches matter less than before), Real Madrid continue to look not-so-impressive, at least during long stretches of the match. They found themselves down 1-2 heading into the dressing rooms at half time, with their set-pieces and crosses-handling problems still where they were a few months ago – Raphael Varane may have taken Pepe’s place in the defense, as the Portuguese enforcer moves higher up the pitch, but that doesn’t change the fact that something isn’t working when it’s time to cover flying balls. Diego Lopez has been fantastic since coming in for Iker Casillas, but crosses aren’t his strong side as well.
But there is that phenom, Cristiano Ronaldo, to get this team out of trouble when things don’t work so well. Mesut Ozil came on at half time, and Real Madrid slowly but surely took over the match, first equalizing through Ronaldo (his 350th career goal) off an Ozil cross, and then took the lead through Gonzalo Higuain, scoring for the second time in the match. Mallorca didn’t look like a team that can comeback from such a reversal of leads, and they simply gave up, as the horrible Dudu Aoute (how is he their keeper for so many years?) conceded two more before the match was over.
When Real Madrid will look back at the season to try and determine if it was a success or not, it’ll probably be answered by winning the Champions League or not. Luka Modric was a complete failure until not too long ago, but suddenly, one goal against Manchester United and the Golazo’s can’t stop coming. It’s not that he’s playing that well, but against very defensive opponents, the combination of himself, Ozil and another midfielder who can hold up the ball (Xabi Alonso later in the match) is very difficult to counter, finally allowing Modric a little less responsibility and more freedom to take some shots at goal, which doesn’t happen when he’s “alone” out there.
Unfortunately, these wins aren’t going to make a difference in the scenario of the title race, which simply hasn’t existed in 2012 in more than one major league across the continent. It’s all about gaining confidence and for Jose Mourinho to find tweaks and weaknesses he can shelter behind the individual abilities of his own players.