Real’s Worst in Years, Simeone Still Can’t Beat Barca and Dembele Silences Critics6 min read
In the immediate wake of surprising football results, it’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to what has just been witnessed.
Real Madrid: no desire, no motivation, no goals
The vitriol with which the press have attacked Real Madrid in the aftermath of their 3-0 defeat at Eibar might normally be dismissed as such, but there’s some merit in their criticism.
After all, before Saturday’s debacle, the tiny Basque club had only scored three goals against Los Blancos in their entire history. In fact, on Real’s previous four visits to Ipurua, the visitors had plundered 12 goals and conceded only two in return.
“The worst Real Madrid in history,” one paper screamed. Maybe that was a little over the top, but you can understand their ire. All of the big names were playing; Bale, Benzema, Asensio, Kroos, Modric, Ramos, Marcelo et al…
Perhaps only Benzema and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois emerge with any credit from a 90 minutes that’s best forgotten about.
? Solari: "We didn’t play at all well and we’ve got to work hard to resolve it." #RMLiga pic.twitter.com/mWREUE7F0w
— Real Madrid C.F. ???? (@realmadriden) November 24, 2018
That it was Santiago Solari’s first official game as Real coach isn’t the best introduction, and with Roma on the immediate horizon in the Champions League, the former Real player needs to get his staff up for a ‘must win’ match.
On Saturday’s evidence, that’s easier said than done.
Maybe the Friday night revelations of Sergio Ramos’ alleged doping test failures had an impact in the dressing room. It’s difficult to explain their performance otherwise.
No desire, no motivation, no goals and not even in the top five at the close of the weekend.
Dembele to the rescue while Simeone fails to defeat Barcelona
Having kicked off later on Saturday, Atletico Madrid had the perfect chance to turn the screw on their local rivals when a brittle Barcelona arrived at the Wanda Metropolitano.
The noise that greeted the two teams and the incredible tifo from the home fans gave this a feeling of a final. It was quite extraordinary.
Though goals wouldn’t arrive until the last 10 minutes of the game, it was an absorbing watch. An elite level chess match where one wrong move would be catastrophic.
Atleti, waved on by a manic Diego Simeone on the touchline, were tight, compact and hard to break down. Happy to allow Barcelona the lion’s share of the ball was a dangerous game but Messi was quiet, and the Catalans just couldn’t get to grips with the defensive master class of their hosts.
Having not scored in the league since February, or ever against Barcelona, when Diego Costa’s header hit the back of the net in the 79th minute – eliciting what can only be described as an animalistic roar from the 60,000 supporters packed inside the Wanda – it looked to have earned all three points and Simeone’s first win against the Blaugrana in the league.
Step forward the much-maligned Ousmane Dembele.
Only on the pitch for nine minutes, sent into the breach by Ernesto Valverde in the wake of Costa’s opener, the Frenchman equalised in the last minute with Barcelona’s only real guilt-edged chance of the game.
That’s the fifth time this season that the Frenchman has scored a decisive goal, winning his team 10 points in the process. A mercurial talent with a teenager’s attitude can probably best describe him, and that’s exactly why he leaves everyone so flabbergasted.
⚽ #RealValladolidBarça 0-1
⚽ #BarçaHuesca 8-2
⚽ #RealSociedadBarça 1-2
⚽ #RayoBarça 2-3
⚽ #AtletiBarça 1-1@Dembouz the difference maker! ?⚡️ pic.twitter.com/6eR2tAgsBO
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) November 25, 2018
With Malcom also sent on, Barca had pace down each flank and looked a far more exciting proposition. Food for thought for Valverde?
The draw allowed Barcelona to keep top spot after Alaves had surprisingly lost at Leganes on Friday night. Abelardo Fernandez has carved out a real name for himself at Alaves, but on the day his side were flat and out of ideas.
Sevilla is still on the top of La Liga
Pablo Machin is making similar waves at Sevilla, after a wonderful campaign last season with Girona – their first in the top flight.
A slender 1-0 victory over Valladolid meant that the Andalusians leapfrogged everyone and now sit proudly atop the division.
They’re playing as well as anyone but with the steely backbone that seems to have deserted some of their contemporaries.
Their next fixture – at Alaves – promises to be one of the games of the season.
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