Los Blancos faced the last league game before travelling to Morocco for the FIFA Club World Cup in a weird schedule for them, as it was the first time in many years that they were to play a league game on a Friday night. It was, a priori, a very easy task, as Almería were in the middle of a negative streak and had just sacked their coach, but the game turned out to be really complicated. Finally, Los Blancos got a sloppy win that makes the twentieth and can now focus on the World Cup with their league homework done.
Almería: Rubén, Michel, Ximo, Trujillo, Fran Vélez (Corona, 82'), Verza, Thomas, Edgar, Dubarbier (Zongo, 58'), Soriano (Silva, 66'), Hemed.
Real Madrid: Casillas, Carvajal, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo, Illarramendi, Kroos, Isco, Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema (Coentrao, 84').
The first half
The early minutes were much colder than the 12º Celsius that the players were feeling on the pitch. Almería started with a very intense pressure and our midfielders were not able to keep the ball long enough to build any organized attack. It is hard to guess whether Almería's intensity was the only thing that was stopping our players or if, on the contrary, some of them had their minds on their trip to Morocco. Although Almería were not creating any dangerous goal ocassions, you could easily tell that Los Blancos were not comfortable on the pitch.
Things started to change around the fifteenth minute, when a long shot by Toni Kroos hit the crossbar. Los Blancos, tonight dressed in black and accompanied by the Dragon King, increased their rhythm and started to find space behind the first pressing line of our rivals. The passing game in Almería's side of the field and the fullbacks's incorporations got more frequent and, as a result, the goal chances arrived naturally, but the lack of precision in the last instant in players like Bale or Ronaldo delayed the arrival of the first goal a bit longer than expected.
It was Isco, in the 25th minute, who opened the scoreboard. He received a ball in the top left-hand corner of Almería's box, in front of an organized defence, but after a couple touches he found a way towards the far post. His shot described a beautiful parabola and Rubén could do nothing to block it.
Real's beautiful goal
Real's beautiful goal
Almería's players did not drop their guard and kept pressing and, after ten minutes in which barely nothing happened, they got the equalizing goal with a brilliant long shot by Verza. It was an isolated action and it is hard to blame it on any of our players, but the truth is that Verza should not have received that ball with so much space around him.
However, the joy did not last too much in the Juegos del Mediterráneo Stadium, as Real Madrid scored two minutes later. After a corner kick that had been deflected, and with many Real Madrid players inside Almería's box, Toni Kroos sent a beautiful cross to the penalty spot, where Bale was all alone waiting for it, to put it inside the goal with a fantastic header to the long post. Real Madrid had a well-deserved advantage before the break but the game was far from being solved.
The second half
Los Blancos started the second half playing with a higher intensity and ruled the first minutes but, once again, they were unable to materialize their ocassions. Rubén Martínez was fantastic to deflect a couple of long shots by Ronaldo while Bale missed another. The sixtieth minute could have brought the closure to the game, as Ronaldo was fouled inside Almería's box, but the referee did not share my opinion. In the next action, Marcelo fouled Edgar in our own box and, this time, there was a penalty kick called. To be fair, Marcelo could have been sent off, as he was already booked at that moment, but the referee did not accept Almería's players requests to show him a second yellow card.
Real Madrid's long winning streak was in danger, but the Saint appeared. Verza, whom I consider a great penalty taker, shot to his right. Casillas guessed his intention and deflected the shot far enough to avoid a second shot. The victory was still safe.
Cristiano took the lead afterwards, with the clear intention to score the third and finally close the game, but his aim was far from his standards tonight. The continuous blows he received from the defenders increased his anxiety and he was finally booked after making a really intrascendental but too intense foul. Fortunately, his complaints were not hard enough to make the referee send him off.
Finally, his efforts produced a reward in the eightieth minute. A fantastic counterattack conducted by our BBC trio finished with Ronaldo receiving a great gift from Benzema in the middle of the box. He only needed to gently push it to get the winning goal, which makes his twenty-fourth in La Liga. The game was decided but, in a new counterattack, Ronaldo got his second after a good run by Carvajal through the right wing.
With this victory, Los Blancos increase their advantage over FC Barcelona to five points once again. If the culés were to win their two games before New Year, they would get the leadership, but we would still have the postponed game against Sevilla in February to get it back.
Next stop: the FIFA Club World Cup!