No more Armada
Tuesday found Spain's current top side against England's current one. Spain lost. Last night found Italy's number 2 against the Spanish equivalent, and again the Spanish side lost. Barcelona had majority of possession but failed to do anything with it. Real were second best in both halves and paid the penalty. Losing after trying hard to win is acceptable. Losing without isn't. Real's threats came via Ronaldo, who went close on one occasion I can remember. Other than that, if he went on a run, it looked dangerous for Juve. Raul wasn't as good as he is renowned. Zidane rarely featured and came off for Guti, Beckham picked up a twinge in his back and departed for Solari, Owen came on for Raul.
Juve started with Ibrahimovic, Zalayeta and Del Piero, three strikers to pressurise the Madrid defence. In his substitutions, Luxemburgo went likewise, bringing on Solari, which left the Argentinian with Owen and Ronaldo. Juve enjoyed the possession and applying the pressure, Ibrahimovic constantly using his pace, height and strength to twist and twine between Samuel and Helguera, but what let down Juve was the final finishing touch. It wasn't until flu-victim David Trezeguet came on for Del Piero on 57mins that Juve found the break they needed.
On 75mins, another wasp to the Real Defence, Camoranesi, sent a back over to the far post which looked to go out, yet Ibrahimovic used his height to nodded it back across goal. It came off Helguera slightly and bounced to Trezeguet, who aimed an overhead effort to goal. Comeback. This took the game into extra time as Real failed to muster any form of chance in return while Juve pressed for a winner.
Then a turning point. Solari is away on the left, charging, Ronaldo is aiming to be in the box and is running, Tacchinardi is running with him and could have been blocking him as it was indicated he used an elbow on the Brazilian. Ronaldo responded in turn by swinging a wild leg after the Italian midfielder. As play stopped due to the ball going out, ref Markus Merk consulted with the linesman as Guti gestured Tacchinardi had used an elbow three times. The end decision was that both were culpable and they both left the field. For Juve, one man down meant little, they were vibrant and they had enough to cover Tacchinardi's absence.
Madrid had created little throughout the match and this was via Ronaldo, their best chance of scoring, especially as Raul was off. Zidane and Beckham off too, the time was for Owen to step up and further his cause for first-team selection. But Real didn't have enough reserve, and Ronaldo off must have hit them further down. Solari tried to make something but mostly ended up on the floor in vain attempts for a freekick. Juve had more firepower to carry the fight than Real, and it showed. A high ball into the Madrid box was poorly met by a defender, possibly Raul Bravo, who had been very good, and the ball trickled to Zalayeta, who aimed a low shot pass Casillas's right corner.
On the night, Real were second best and it showed. Having played very well enough in the 1st leg, I don't know what their plan was but without Ronaldo, it faltered. The other players didn't play well enough to warrant a win, the defence played the best out of the three sectors, Samuel coped and Bravo fought every time Ibrahimovic threatened. He came in for Salgado, Samuel and Helguera in central, Carlos; Figo, Gravesen, Zidane, Beckham; Ronaldo and Raul. This side should have played way, way better than they did. Zidane/Guti happened just before Trezeguet's goal, Solari followed some minutes after and Owen came on for the first half of extra-time. It felt as if Figo was doing the work himself. Solari was to no avail and Owen was being shadowed by Cannavaro. The sending off played a part in Real's reduced playability.
Now, out of the Copa Del Ray and the Champs League, its the La Liga title they must focus on. If Barcelona pushes it to the wire, Luxemburgo could go empty-handed and out the door. They are away to Getafe on Sunday, while Barca are hosts to Athletico Bilbao on Saturday. Both meet on 10th April at the Bernabeu.