Club Focus – Real Madrid – Ronaldo puts Los Blancos back on track

Real Madrid discarded memories of last week’s painful El Clasico defeat by edging to a hard fought 2-0 triumph over Valencia on Saturday night, courtesy of two late strikes of brilliance from Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. With Madridistas still reeling from the Catalan thrashing they received five days earlier, it was imperative Los Blancos started their engines quickly on home turf but Jose Mourinho’s men looked awkward in possession, startled and non-expressive during most of the first half.

Devoid of a recognised striker with Gonzalo Higuain injured and French international Karim Benzema warming the bench, a squad which had looked one of the strongest in Europe suddenly appeared rather threadbare. The way Mourinho this season has integrated a winning formulaic formula cannot be instantly forgotten, but his deployment of Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Lass Diarra stunted the creative engineering needed to make a breakthrough. It played into Los Che hands, whose disciplined organisation and determined work ethic made Madrid look one dimensional.

Although the home side’s financial clout to recruit the best dually told when Cristiano Ronaldo made no mistake in turning a left-footed shot past Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita from the angle with just fifteen minutes to go. Minutes later, a mazy run and dribble resulted in a powerful second for the one-time Manchester United player securing three vital points. Mourinho’s men had little choice but to play catch-up on Barcelona, who restored their two point cushion at the top of La Liga winning in Pamplona on the same night, despite travel problems.

Ronaldo’s 15th and 16th goals of the season were just enough to help Los Blancos back to winning ways, but they were aided by a red card for Valencia stalwart David Albelda deep in the second half. This provided the Santiago Bernabeu side with a chance to run the rule over the visitors with extra freedom in the final third. In what was not an outstanding Madrid performance, credit should be geared towards Mourinho’s team as they did show strength of mind and a quick fire response to a morale-sapping loss at the hands of their great rivals. Real’s Coach echoed these foundations in his post-match conference to the Capitals hungry media: “The most important thing for us tonight was to win a complicated match following a the terrible result we earned in our previous encounter”, the ex-Inter Milan Coach said.

“It was more important not to suffer at the start of the game than to attack too much given that we lacked some confidence and self-esteem. That’s why I changed the line-up (using Spanish duo Raul Albiol and Alvaro Arbeloa in place of the suspended Sergio Ramos and Ricardo Carvalho). Conceding a goal could have destroyed the confidence and self-esteem we had left. That’s why I decided to use a fuller, more pressurising and defensively stronger midfield. It wasn’t the day to play a great game or score many goals.”

Madrid are now preparing for Wednesday’s final Champions League group encounter against French outfit Auxerre. For now, Los Blancos followers can thank the radiance of Ronaldo who made up for his poor Nou Camp performance and swiftly steered his club’s season back onto the right track.

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