In the second game of our Champions League, Madrid faced the undefeated Ajax Amsterdam. We started the game with the predictable lineup--Kaká was the only surprise leaving Di Maria in the bench--and we experienced some difficulties at the beginning.
Ajax was able to press in our field, so Xabi Alonso and Özil had to get back often to create and control the flow of the game. In the first 10 minutes they had two good scoring chances, but Casillas was himself again and avoided them to get ahead in the scoreboard. Then, Özil, Alonso and Kaká started to make some plays with good combinations, which allowed Benzema and Cristiano to get the balls they needed to be effective.Our first goal came in a nicely driven counter-attack by Cristiano, Özil, Kaká and Benzema. Ronaldo and Kaká combined to give a clean ball to Özil, who passed to Benzema in the wing. The Frenchman crossed the ball to the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, and CR did all that was needed, with an amazing goal.
Real Madrid started to gain confidence in their game, and Kaká contributed his best. Sixteen minutes after our first goal, he received the ball outside the box from Cristiano Ronaldo and struck it with his left foot directly to the net. Kaká celebrated his goal with passion and you could tell the team was happy to see him score.
The first half concluded soon after that goal. The Santiago Bernabeu was fairly happy with the team, maybe because the Champions League crowd is different than la Liga's ticket-holders. The European games are more passionate and the attendance tends to be at a higher level.
Our third goal was also very beautiful. As soon as the second half started, Real Madrid patiently waited for a chance to open up (almost four minutes), and then Xabi Alonso delivered a 40mt pass to the other wing, right where Arbeloa was standing. Arbeloa --who played on the left back-- passed the ball inside the box to Kaká, who lgave the goal to Karim Benzema. The Frenchman was not brilliant, but it is always nice to see him scoring. He had a very easy chance to score in the first half and missed it by a few centimeters.
The game then entered a phase where everyone seemed to know the result. Real Madrid did not trouble Ajax, but the Dutch team kept trying and our goalkeeper had to work to keep a clean sheet. He saved quite a few shots from Ajax.
I'd like to highlight Raphael Varane's game. He was making his Champions League debut today and ooked amazing again. This guy has something. He tackled two Ajax Amsterdam's players as our last man, preventing them from getting a clean shot to Casillas. This young man has definitely got the role of third center back in this team, and I can only see a nice future waiting for him.
Mourinho--should I say Karanka? Our head coach was not in the game, as he was completing his sanction--then decided to make some substitutions. Di Maria entered the game for Kaká and Benzema went to the bench for Higuaín. Our French striker was hurt when he left the field, so we can only hope he is not injured.
Di Maria did not play for long. I am a little bit worried. I am a fan of this Argentinian, but he has shown he is not fit. Maybe Kaká has got his spot already. The season is long and we will need him sooner or later. Higuaín was not bad, but we can't judge these substitutions because they entered the game when it was almost over, and our team wasn't trying anymore.
Hamilt Altintop made his debut in the Real Madrid shirt in the 83rd minute. Karanka --our Mourinho again-- decided to take out Özil, who started to look better. Our team restructured itself in a 4-3-3 with Xabi, Khedira and Altintop in the midfield and Cristiano, Di Maria and Higuaín upfront. Again, it might be too early to judge him.
I'd like to highlight Xabi Alonso's match. Kaká was great, and in my opinion the Brazilian was our best player, but I will not argue against somebody that says Alonso was the best today. The Spaniard didn't lose even one ball, and he recovered his long-distance passing. Until Sahin is back, we depend on Alonso's form, so let's hope he stays this way and leaves his last games behind.
Our next rival is Espanyol, so we will have to wait and see how our players recover from this one --especially Benzema. We have to trust this team because they have shown their slump is almost --if not completely--over.
Stay tuned here on Managing Madrid to check post-game reactions from the main players and the latest news concerning Karim Benzema.