Real Madrid 7-1 Osasuna
Real Madrid thrashed a severely depleted Osasuna side to go to the top of the table. The game was relatively competitive until the 54th minute, when the 21-year-old left-back Eneko Satrustegui was sent off on his debut, and Osasuna simply couldn’t compete after that.
For the hosts, there were only three injury worries, with Marcelo, Kaka, and Ricardo Carvalho missing out on the game against Los Rojillos. For most sides this would be a disaster, with these three players some of the best in the world in their respective positions, but to a team like Real Madrid, with tremendous depth in their squad, it was barely noticed. One positive was the appearance of Nuri Sahin, who I will write about later.
Osasuna, on the other hand, had almost a full team of players on the sidelines, either injured, or in one case suspended. Their entire first-choice back-line were injured, after Sergio and Marc Bertran injured themselves against Levante, Roversio nursing a long-term injury and Jukka Raitala picking up a muscle strain in the week. Right-winger Alvaro Cejudo also sat out the visit to the capital, having been sent off in the 2-0 win against Levante. Jose Luis Mendilibar decided to replace him with midfielder Javier Calleja and pushed Raul Garcia further forward.
Jose Mourinho sent his side out in the usual 4-2-3-1 formation, while Mendilibar went for a vague 4-3-2-1, with Nino leading the line and Ibrahima and Raul Garcia in behind.
The match started out at a slow tempo, with Madrid expectedly dominating possession but failing to do very much with it. Osasuna sat deep and usually had 10 men behind the ball, while they played a defensive pressing game, squeezing the space for the Real Madrid players to work within. They hassled and harried the opposition and particularly packed the centre of the pitch. Mendilibar did this, knowing that Madrid would play with two inverted wingers in Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria, and it worked for about 20 mins. On the other hand, using two inverted wingers does have a distinct advantage – it opens up a lot of space for the full-backs to exploit, which Coentrao and Arbeloa certainly did.
One interesting aspect of Madrid’s style of play was the use of Xabi Alonso. This season, he has become accustomed to dropping in between the two centre-backs when in possession, allowing Arbeloa and Coentrao to push high up the pitch. He is able to do this due to his fantastic passing range and acted almost as a quarterback for most of the game, spreading play out wide to the wingers/full-backs.
After a quarter of the game, Madrid had had 78% of the possession, but were moving it around too slowly to be able to break down Osasuna’s rigid defence. There was a clear change in tempo around this mark, and they immediately got their reward. Di Maria got inside the left-back Satrustegui and delivered an inch-perfect cross for Ronaldo to head in. Osasuna got one back totally against the run of play, when Ibrahima scored off a quick free kick while the whole Real Madrid defence were complaining to the referee.
It was not equal for long though, and barely two minutes later Di Maria delivered another brilliant cross from the right for Pepe to head in. Neither of the Osasuna centre-backs is very big (the tallest is 6”0) and so crosses were an obvious tactic.
Madrid had 42% of their attacks down the right-hand side, despite their best player being a left-winger. This was clearly a ploy to attack the inexperienced left-back Satrustegui, who looked nervous at the best of times. He stood off Di Maria on both of the opening goals and was probably relieved to be sent off, cutting his afternoon 40 minutes short. As Madrid found their stride, they began to put together some neat passing patterns as well. Higuain scored the third goal after a great move and this gave Di Maria 3 assists before half-time.
The second half was dominated again by Madrid, who were one man up for 40 mins, and was not competitive at all. Their slick passing led to four more goals being scored, including a hat-trick for Ronaldo (his 12th triple for the Spanish giants) and there really wasn’t much to talk about, with the oft-used cliché “like a training match” coming to mind.
Osasuna took off their central striker Nino and replaced him with the defender Marcos Perez, with Ibrahima playing as the lone front man thereafter. Captain Punal was taken off for the centre-back Ruben, as Mendilibar attempted to stop Madrid going into double figures, while David Timor was a like-for-like replacement for Javier Calleja in the 86th minute.
Angel Di Maria unfortunately pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury and was replaced by Karim Benzema. Benzema originally started off on the right-wing (where Di Maria was playing) but moved into a second-striker position shortly afterwards. The eternal struggle between Benzema and Higuain to be the team’s first-choice striker was probably won by the Frenchman today, as he scored two goals in 40 minutes.
Ozil was brought off for Callejon, meaning he has yet to complete 90 minutes in match this season. However, the most interesting substitution came in the form of Turkish midielder Nuri Sahin. Bought from German champions Borussia Dortmund for €10m, the defensive midfielder was expected to compete with Khedira to become Alonso’s first-choice partner in midfield, but injuries have held him back this far. I believe he will go on to establish himself as a starter, but he will clearly need more minutes to get his match fitness up to scratch and to get a good understanding with his team-mates.
This was another case of Real Madrid effectively killing the game off before the break and relaxing after it, even though they did manage to score more in the second half. The sending off changed the game slightly and meant that Osasuna had one less player to contribute to their counter-attacks, which in turn resulted in them losing the ball far more quickly than before, and so Madrid dominated yet another match.
Osasuna stay in 8th place, somewhat surprisingly as they have the worst defensive record in the league, letting in 24 goals in 11 games so far. Madrid have now scored 39 goals in their 11 games, conceding just 7 times and sit four points above second-placed Barcelona, who travel to Bilbao to face Athletic tonight.
Next up for the leaders is a trip to take on Valencia, who currently sit 3rd in the league, while Los Rojillos host another Madrid-based side, Rayo Vallecano, currently 12th in the table.