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Real Madrid Vs. Mallorca, La Liga 2013: 5-2 To Madrid In A Tale Of Two Halves & A Tactical Masterclass

Defensive and tactical anarchy in the first half were replaced with fluid, stylish and beautiful football in the second as Mourinho earns his pay-cheque.

Denis Doyle

The Lineup

There were no suspensions for Real Madrid's 2600th game in the Primera Liga.

Real Madrid Starting XI: Diego; Arbeloa, Ramos, Varane, Fábio Coentrão; Pepe, Modric; Kaká, Morata, Cristiano Ronaldo and Higuaín.

Bench: Adán, Khedira, Benzema, Özil, Carvalho, Marcelo, Alonso.

Real Mallorca Starting XI: Aouate, Hutton, Nunes, Bigas, Kevin, Nsue, Pina, Tissone, Alfaro, Giovani & Víctor

The back-line was as expected, with Sergio Ramos keeping his place next to Raphaël Varane. The only surprises were in midfield. With 18 International call-ups pending, as many regular starters as possible found themselves resting. Both Germans (who have a 5000 mile round-trip to Kazakhstan this week) and Alonso (struggling with back pain recently) started on the bench. Gonzalo Higuaín was chosen over the seemingly out-of-favour Karim Benzema. Most surprisingly, Modric and Pepe were in midfield together with Kaka in the centre of the attack and Madrid youngster Álvaro Morata pressed into service as a winger.

There were injuries. Ángel di María's hamstring problem persists, and Iker Casillas, though he trained with both hands this week, was not even risked on the bench.

Set Piece And Tactical Anarchy: The First Half

José Mourinho's experimental line-up was poor from the beginning, for a number of reasons.

Morata did not have a bad game, but he was uncomfortable playing on the right, as opposed to the left as against Barcelona. The midfield of Pepe and Luka Modric proved to be rather chaotic. From Madrid's point of view, the game had very little rhythm in the first half, and there was difficulty maintaining possession. Breaks, when they came, were poor and usually broke down with nary a shot on goal. The unfortunate Luka Modric (finally given a start in his preferred position in the starting 11 but in a make-shift line-up) was the best of a bad group in the midfield.

In the attack Kaká was rendered virtually anonymous by Pepe's marked enthusiasm for barreling forward and Álvaro Arbeloa cutting in to crowd space in front of the Mallorca six yard area in an effort to make amends for defensive mistakes leading to Madrid's concessions.

Pepe, for his part, broke up play well, but showed no invention and little passing range. And with Mallorca's goals coming off set-pieces rather than from breaks or from open-play, his role in preventing the opposition from scoring was limited.

There was also a visible lack of symmetry in the first half: Fábio Coentrão and Cristiano Ronaldo on the left were out-of-sync with the rest of the team. They were playing at their usual pace while Madrid's right and centre were slower. A frustrated Coentrão began to cut into the centre, further crowding the midfield and making life difficult for Kaká and Modric. Higuaín was industrious, as always, but often faltered in the final third.

Mallorca's first goal came in the sixth minute off Emilio Nsue López. It was not even off a corner kick or a free kick. It was worse - off a throw-in - in a scene entirely too familiar this season, leaving Real Madrid with it all to do after typically putrid set-piece defending. A few minutes later, the same defenders allowed Mallorca to score again through Alfaro. This time it was off a corner conceded by Arbeloa who put the ball out as a safety measure. As a tactic, this is a questionable one from Madrid's point of view. Once again: Mallorca scored after a scramble in the box.

Between those two goals, Madrid scored a perfectly comical effort after Pepe seized on a Modric pass and got the ball to Higuaín. It was haphazard in the extreme, and there was more than a hint of offside (the keeper may, or may not, have been adjudged to have got the final touch) but it left Madrid with some hope for the second half.

The teams went into the break with Madrid behind 2-1, with the crowd, true to form, jeering Los Merengues off the pitch.

The Second Half - "Who Wouldn't Love You?"

Mourinho made his substitutions immediately at the beginning of the second half. Mesut Özil and Karim Benzema, both players skilled at keeping the ball and speeding up play without getting in the way of their teammates, were on for Arbeloa and Morata. With Mallorca actually showing little penetration, Mourinho simply re-arranged his back-line. Modric and Kaká remained in midfield together. Özil, surprisingly, was placed on the left in a sort of 3-4-3 line-up that saw three centre-backs in the defence and Coentrão (early in the second half) encouraged to push forward.

The improvement was marked. Within 7 minutes, Madrid had equalized in the 52nd minute. Özil's superior set-piece delivery and Ronaldo's athletic, leaping header saw the score at 2-2.

Two minutes later, Luka Modric made it 3-2 when he scored a screamer as Coentrão got his cross in (the fullback himself was bundled to the ground and could have had a penalty) and Modric met it from about 30 yards out. An absolute screaming golazo - and a goal that was deserved by a player who had struggled, but played well even in the first half's disorganized line-up.

About one minute after that, Higuaín scored his second off a beautiful pass from Özil in the 57th minute. The Whites were now two goals to the good with a 4-2 scoreline.

Another beautiful chance, when Özil slid the ball into Ronaldo in the 74th minute (forcing a desperate save) and the predictably fickle Bernabéu Stadium crowd stopped their jeering and gave a rousing chorus of ¡Cómo no te voy a querer!

Who, indeed, wouldn't love this Madrid?

The icing on the cake was a goal in extra-time - with Alonso slipping the ball to Higuaín who passed on to Benzema. 5-2 for Madrid.

In between all that, Mourinho had finished his substitutions by taking off Kaká (to warm applause for his efforts) for Xabi Alonso and shifting Cristiano Ronaldo permanently to the right in a final genius move: it was Mallorca's weaker defensive side and Ronaldo found nothing but space to run into. Finally: the effect of Özil and Alonso in the centre together meant that the pitch seemed to have expanded to double its size. Even with Mallorca mainly crowded in their own half, as they had been in the first half, the space Madrid's midfield suddenly seemed to find itself in was considerable.

And finally even Diego López seemed to do brilliantly, saving a difficult shot at his near-post in the 70th minute and another in the 84th.

It was a tactical masterclass from Mourinho, and a beautiful and stylish second half performance from the players.

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