A sideways look at Spanish football
On many occasions, LLL is delighted to be proved wrong. And that’s a good thing too, considering such circumstances tend to happen about 50 times a day. The most recent moment that the blog is aware of is predicting Milan to beat Málaga in Tuesday’s Champions League clash in Berlusconi’s boudoir.
It certainly wasn’t a forecast made to besmirch the quality and the ability of the Primera players, more a fear that the malaise evident in Saturday’s defeat at Rayo – which LLL feels stems from the ongoing broken promises to the players about their salaries – would carry over to the Champions League.
Thankfully, Málaga didn’t let themselves down, nor their families, their pets, their club, their supporters, their respective countries or even Málaga’s owner, who clearly cares so much about his charges that he leaves them checking down the backs of sofas for their bus fare to training.
The 1-1 draw against the Serie A side showed that the Málaga footballers are blessed with stones the size of the Eiffel Tower, and a fine footballer in the form of Eliseu, who scored their goal of the night and his fourth in this season’s Champions League to prove that he isn’t just an enormous diver with an admittedly hard shot.
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The point gained puts Málaga through to the last 16 with two matches to spare – not something that Manuel Pellegrini’s former employers in the Spanish capital can boast – and a fine chance of topping group C.
“We don’t need to send a message to anyone,” insisted the Málaga boss, when asked if his team needed to send a message to anyone. “The team has overcome situations and keeps on looking forward.”
While Málaga are sitting atop a tremendously comfortable Champions League cushion supping on hot minestrone soup, Real Madrid are going to have to work their expensively sponsored socks off in their final two group D matches – at Manchester City and then back at base against Ajax. Normally, logic and history would suggest that the latter of those clashes is a home banker, but that’s not been the case in this scary group of death.
Madrid came a winkle’s whisker away from losing to the English side in the opening group game and nearly came a cropper again on Tuesday but were handed an escape chute and a point thanks to a late Mesut Özil free-kick and a howler from the previously excellent Borussia Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller.
The match finished 2-2 despite the claims of José Mourinho who informed the media afterwards that his team actually scored three goals, doggedly including a José Callejón effort ruled out for offside early in the second half. AS disagrees, suggesting that the effort was correctly ruled out and that Özil’s effort had “prevented a crisis”.
"Phew, got away with it again"
The result leaves Madrid not only with a bit of work to do over the next month but potentially without both strikers for the weekend’s visit to Levante, what with Karim Benzema missing the match with an iffy groin and Gonzalo Higuaín dropping out at half-time clutching a hamstring.
The other two Spanish sides face their Champions League clashes on Wednesday. Valencia host BATE in what will probably be a 3-0 win with goals from Jonas and Tino Costa, while Best-Ever Barcelona are in Scotland to face Celtic.
Among the traveling party is a certain Leo Messi, desperate to score not just to lead his side to victory, etc, but also to celebrate the birth of his son Thiago last Friday. LLL will not be impressed if said hypothetical (but hardly unlikely) goal is celebrated with a thumb-suck, cradle-rock, or dummy-chew, as the Barcelona press are suggesting.
Indeed, in case hard-of-thinking supporters were wondering what the third of those options may look like, Wednesday’s edition of Sport have been happy to concoct an image of it for their front cover, ahead of what Tito Vilanova claims is his team’s “most important game left in 2012.” Quite the salesman.
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