Real Madrid win shows fighting spirit, for good and bad

Real Madrid did well to get out of the Nuevo Arcángel relatively unscathed in the end, but it wasn’t all as routine as Carlo Ancelotti would have hoped, reports ISF’s Alex Kirkland.

It’s another of football’s favourite clichés that title contenders must prove their credentials by winning when not at their best. And Real Madrid were a long, long way from their best on Saturday. Their 2-1 win at Córdoba was hard-fought, in every sense of the word. The Whites seemed to be struggling against themselves as much as the opposition. The atmosphere at the Nuevo Archángel was superb. The crowd smelt blood.

Cristiano Ronaldo was so anonymous as to be almost unrecognisable. It was no surprise that his frustration boiled over into a moment of madness for which he has since apologised. The Ballon d’Or winner has been struggling somewhat for form, despite scoring twice against Getafe, but this was a new low. It’s tempting to say these are two sides of the same coin – the obsessive winning mentality that has made him the world’s best player is liable to see him react when things aren’t going his way.

Ronaldo was shown a straight red for violent conduct before Gareth Bale snatched the three points for Los Blancos.
Ronaldo was shown a straight red for violent conduct before Gareth Bale snatched the three points for Los Blancos.

The problem here was that Cristiano’s red card left his team in the lurch, the three points in jeopardy, with a real danger of handing the advantage back to title rivals Barcelona. Fortunately for him and the team, Gareth Bale stepped up with a one-man rescue operation, winning and scoring a penalty with minutes to spare. Depending on the length of Cristiano’s suspension, there will be more responsibility on the Welshman’s shoulders in the weeks to come.

This misfiring performance wasn’t just about Ronaldo, though. In midfield, Isco was badly missed. The playmaker-turned-box-to-box midfielder has made himself indispensable in recent weeks. His ability to receive the ball while marked, turn and find space is crucial in giving the team an outlet when they’re under pressure. In his place, Sami Khedira’s impact was limited in his first league start of the season.

David Moyes’ Real Sociedad visit the Bernebéu on Saturday, themselves having scraped a narrow win this weekend. Carlo Ancelotti must decide how to replace Ronaldo – will James step upfield, or could Jesé make his first start of the season? At least Isco should be back alongside Toni Kroos in midfield to give Madrid the control and composure that was badly lacking in Córdoba.

This article was originally published here.

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