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Real Madrid vs Córdoba, Liga BBVA 2014-15: A Win Is a Win (2-0)

La Liga was finally here (on a Monday!). Real Madrid's first challenge was Córdoba CF and after losing the Supercup, Ancelotti's men surely wanted to impress their home crowd. They didn't, but hey, a win is a win.

Denis Doyle

It was Real Madrid debut at the Santiago Bernabéu for the 2014-2015 season against recently promoted Córdoba FC. Iker Casillas started, as well as James Rodríguez and Cristiano Ronaldo. Another surprising starter was Álvaro Arbeloa.

It didn't take long for Real to make Córdoba nervous. Five minutes in, Ronaldo was pushed inside the box after a good cross by Marcelo. Córdoba, much like their fans in the stands, answered back with a great shot after a bad play by Ramos that fortunately went wide left.

Real Madrid had possession of the ball, but Córdoba were showing discipline and order early. When they had the ball they didn't look as helpless as many expected (Ramos didn't help early), and they were pressuring the white defenders inside their own territory. On the other hand, Ancelotti's men were relying too much on throwing deep balls inside Córdoba's box.

Right before the 20th, a good play on a free kick by Luka Modric and Ronaldo almost gave los Merengues the lead as Juan Carlos struggled to save Ronaldo's shot, but in the end he managed to control it. Los Blancos still had the ball, but just like it happened against Atlético, there wasn't a lot of clarity to go along with it. Lots of crosses from the right and a couple of long shots were the answer to Córdoba's tight lines and it simply wasn't working. It wasn't unusual to have every single white player, including both Ramos and Pepe, past midfield which isn't really a positive (or productive) thing to happen.

Also, they were getting lots of corner kicks and they wasted all of them, until the 30th minute, when Kroos' corner was strongly headed by Karim Benzema leaving Juan Carlos without a chance to save it. Real Madrid now had a 1-0 lead.

The goal did wonders for the team's mentality. Everyone looked a lot more relaxed and players like Marcelo started to find more spaces to attack. The final pass was still the problem though, as each cross was easily cleared by Córdoba's defenders.

Córdoba were really close to trying the game at the 43', on a corner kick no less thanks to a double mistake by Real Madrid on the play. First, Ramos was easily beaten by Havenaar. Casillas didn't help as he came out of his goal to "attack" the ball only to fail miserably once again. Luckily for Real Madrid, Havenaar's header, with an open goal, incredibly went wide left.

It was a positive first half for Los Blancos thanks to Benzema's goal, but it wasn't a very exciting performance. Ancelotti still decided to keep the same players for the second half.

The second half didn't start for Real Madrid until the 50'. Córdoba was a lot better early, but Ancelotti's men slowly started to settle in. At the 58', James had a fantastic chance inside the box but his shot was brilliantly saved by Juan Carlos.

The following minutes didn't offer a lot. The next two big chances were Córdoba's. At the 69', it was another play on a corner kick. A couple minutes later, it was a shot by Fidel. Casillas made the save, but conceded a ridiculous rebound to the middle. Xisco took it and scored, but he was ruled offside.

It was incredible, but it felt like it was easier for Córdoba to tie it than for Real Madrid to extend their lead. Ancelotti knew he had to make some changes, so he sent Isco and Carvajal to replace James and Arbeloa at the 73'. A few minutes later Sami Khedira took Benzema's spot.

Bale had a chance on a cross by Ronaldo at the 81' but couldn't deliver a good header and was easily saved by Juan Carlos. Minutes later, the ref ruled out another goal. This time, it was Real's, as Ronaldo was a step offside after a fantastic pass by Modric. Upset with that call (although it was the right one), the Ballon d'Or took the ball again at the 89' to declare "enough is enough" as he delivered a fantastic shot from outside the box (with an evil sudden rebound included) that left Juan Carlos without a chance. 2-0 and that was it for the game.

It sucks to have the home fans booing at their team, but it was hard to blame them after a pretty disappointing showing against one of this year's recently promoted teams. It's one thing to struggle against Atlético de Madrid but against Córdoba it's an entirely different story (or so we thought). That said, the visitor deserves a lot of credit for their game tonight. They competed brilliantly (they deserved to score at least once) and their thousands of fans that made the trip to the Bernabéu were just as good. The 2-0 result is, surprisingly, a bit cruel for them, but that's football.

A win is a win and three points playing like crap are better than one while playing great, but you expect much better things from the current European champs. There were a few solid performances (Kroos, Isco, James and Karim come to mind), but overall, it was a pretty mediocre game. Ancelotti and his team still have time to improve, but they better do it soon or they might start losing points in a league where a simple draw might kill you in May.

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