No, Cristiano Ronaldo did not steal the show in Real’s opening encounter against Deportivo. Nor did Karim Benzema.
The attacking punch came from Lassana Diarra who orchestrated moves deep in midfield. The French holding midfielder scored the winning goal and provided the assist that led to Ronaldo’s PK. The penalty was the only highlight in the former Man Utd man’s otherwise forgettable debut. Raul scored one opportune goal and was involved in the penalty that led to Ronaldo opening his account.
In a continuing theme from pre-season which saw Arjen Robben, Gonzalo Higuain, and Xabi Alonso shine, the old guard and the lesser lights combined to distract from the real story: Real’s porous defense which gave away two goals.
Ezekiel Garay and Raul Albiol were woeful. Riki rose above the earthbound Garay and Albiol to head home. Then Andres Guardado’s cross was neatly trapped by Valeron who shot home as the defense was again caught napping. Real should be bolstered by the return of Sergio Ramos and Pepe but if this match makes one thing clear, defense is an afterthought. Manuel Pellegrini should not expect Fiorentino Perez’s attitude to be any different from his Galacticos days.
Jose Semano of El Pais reacts to Real’s performance:
“Florentino Perez always idolized Madrid from his childhood, of Kopa-Rial-Di Stefano-Puskas-Gento: five forwards.”
“Over time soccer has become more conservative but not in the mind of (Perez). Manuel Pellegrini has no other option than to field as many defenders as attackers, a gamble that almost got them into trouble against Depor.”
“Madrid were struggling to dictate the game and obviously won’t be a balanced and well calibrated side anytime soon but their box of tricks is limitless.”
All well and good. But what makes one think that the attack will bail out the defense. As Chelsea showed in the first leg of the CL semi-final against Barca, there are ways of dealing with a potent offense. Some of the smaller clubs will do exactly that as Real tries to overwhelm them. Such exertions have cumulative effects later in the season. A group of talented soloists are always exciting to watch but it is as a team that you win. Barca has found that balance and nothing that Real produced today suggests that they are ready to displace the Catalunyan club.