Real Madrid kicked off their Champions League season with a 1-0 win in Croatia. Dinamo Zargeb came to play, and like many Real Madrid opponents, played up a notch. When I say played up a notch, I'm talking about their goal keeper, 23-year-old Ivan Kelava. Had it not been for him, we could be talking about a 6-0 victory, instead of escaping Croatia with three points.
As usual, Real Madrid came out in a 4-3-2-1, with Karim Benzema as the lone striker up top. Zagreb, on the other hand, came out in a funky 3-5-1-1 formation--I think it confused the visiting team at first. It's a formation that I've never seen before, but crowding the midfield seemed to work. It's too bad that anytime Zagreb were able to get the ball back from the Real Madrid possession machine, they'd give it back two passes later.
Dinamo Zagreb, playing their first Champions League match since the 1999/2000 term, weren't going to be intimidated by Real Madrid and their uncharacteristic all red strip. This was the first time Real Madrid had worn red in a competitive match in over 30 years. Zagreb almost nabbed an early one-nil lead in the second minute on a corner kick when Milan Badlej volleyed the kick over the cross bar.
Karim Benzema had a couple of different chances to put Real Madrid ahead in the first half, but Zagreb keeper Kelava denied him and Cristiano Ronaldo at every turn. The visitors were given a scare toward the end of the half that started in the home end when Marcelo decided he was going to turn from defense to striker. Once he failed, Zagreb broke out the other way, leaving Real Madrid's defense one man short.
Skipper Iker Casillas was the one man that Zagreb striker Ante Rukavina needed to beat. He tried to put the ball over Casillas's head and Iker denied him with a two-handed save. This was one of the few instances where Zagreb were able to keep hold of the ball for longer than a couple of passes. The Croatian side wouldn't be much more of a threat until later in the game.
It would take seven minutes after the restart for Angel Di Maria to move across the penalty area and rifle a left-footed shot that would put the away side up 1-0. Again, Zagreb goal keeper Kelava would keep Real Madrid from upping the score line again just minutes later on a CR7 attempt.
What exactly do we do about Marcelo? First, he picked up a yellow on a very dangerous challenge (something he's getting all to well-known for) and then in the 73rd minute picked up his second yellow of the night - earning him a red card for diving. I, for one, am happy that the ref realized what the Brazilian left back was up to, and sent him off the pitch. And Marcelo, gauging by his reaction, knew he'd been caught and didn't argue the call.
In the late stages, Karim Benzema would be brought off the pitch in favor of Alvaro Arbeloa. With los blancos a man down, it made sense to replace offense with some defense. But Zagreb didn't let this bother them much. The defense looked lost in the closing minutes, as the home side applied the pressure. Real Madrid would keep a clean sheet and not let a stoppage time goal rob their points and lead them to a draw.
Real Madrid's next match will be on September 27 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu versus Ajax who played to a nil-nil draw today with Lyon today at home.