Real Madrid Analysis – Madrid keep pressure on Barcelona with Zaragoza stroll

REAL ZARAGOZA 1
Gabi 54

REAL MADRID 3
Ozil 15, Ronaldo 44, Di Maria 47

Real Madrid kept the heat on rivals Barcelona on Sunday evening with a 3-1 win against lowly Real Zaragoza. Goals from Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria helped Mourinho’s men stay in touch with the champions ahead of the winter break.

Sergio Ramos and Gonzalo Higuain were the notable absentees from the Madrid squad. Ramos will be out until mid January with a knee injury that he picked up in midweek against Auxerre, while Higuain will miss two months of the season with a hernia problem.

It was the home team who started on the front foot looking to catch Madrid cold, and were unlucky not to take the lead when Nicolas Bertolo’s header was well blocked by Alvaro Arbeloa. The visitors rode the early pressure and started to play their way into the game. A typical Ronaldo run saw him beat four Zaragoza players before teeing up Lassana Diarra who shot high and wide.

Real were rewarded for their dominance on 15 minutes when Ozil finished off a world class move involving Ronaldo, who laid the ball to Marcelo, who charged forward before picking out Ozil, with the German neatly tucking the ball under Leo Franco. Zaragoza striker Lafite had a chance to level before the break, having made space for himself on the edge of the box but failed to really test Casillas. On the stroke of half time Real were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area. Ronaldo stepped up and placed the ball to Leo Franco’s right hand side and into the top corner to score his 24th goal of the season.

The second half was just two minutes old when Madrid put the game out of reach. Xabi Alonso chipped a ball over the top of the Zaragoza defence for Di Maria to latch on to and he lifted the ball over the goalkeeper. The home side were given a lifeline on 53 minutes, when Ricardo Carvalho fouled Bertolo in the box and the penalty was neatly dispatched by Gabi, a goal that turned out to be no more than a consolation.

Madrid, and in particular, Benzema, had the opportunity to extend their lead but the Frenchmen failed to capitalise on his chances. Despite having netted a hat-trick in midweek the former Lyon man looked very clumsy in front of goal, which appeared to frustrate Mourinho who is on the search for a front man in the January transfer window.

Madrid host struggling Sevilla next Sunday, the last game before the winter break and will be hoping to take three points in the pursuit of their first La Liga title in four years.

Starting XI

1 Casillas

17 Arbeloa – 3 Pepe – 2 Carvalho – 12 Marcelo

22 Di Maria – 14 Xabi Alonso – 10 L Diarra

23 Ozil – 9 Benzema – 7 Ronaldo

Substitutions

67 – 11 Granero on for 23 Ozil

73 – 6 M Diarra on for 9 Benzema

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