The last ‘pit stop’ before the Club World Cup in Morocco, Real Madrid played Almeria away from home Friday night in a match that was supposed to be easy but was made slightly difficult by a motivated Almeria side.
Real Madrid’s first half performance in particular was below par as they struggled with creating chances and narrowly ended the half with a one goal advantage. The second half saw a complete 180 degrees change as Carlo Ancelotti’s men played much better soccer and created loads of chances.
The change might be attributed to Cristiano Ronaldo’s change in performance as the current leading goal scorer in La Liga had a severely below average first half in which he was named WhoScored’s lowest rated Real Madrid player. He nonetheless turned it around and produced a second half performance that saw him get more involved in the build-up play, creating chances, and of course scoring a late brace that put the match to rest. His shift in output in the second half saw him being selected as WhoScored’s Man of the Match, which is a big jump from being the lowest rated player in the first half, further signifying how well he played in that second half.
Perhaps in direct correlation with Cristiano, the current La Liga leaders played a lot more effectively in the second half and created numerous chances while still solidly defending (apart from the penalty) their lead. The biggest impact of the night was however made by Iker Casillas as he saved a rather harsh penalty kick when the score was at 2-1. Had the penalty went in, Almeria would’ve been tied to the current reigning European Champions with the chance to capitalize on the momentum swing to actually go ahead. With Iker’s save, though, nothing of the sort happened as Real Madrid was actually the side with the more momentum after the penalty.
Real had the chance to increase their tally several times in the closing minutes but they lacked the clinical finishing they needed as Almeria pushed forward several times to score a consolation second goal. Perhaps the only downside to the second half was the fact that the team clearly displayed fatigue and tiredness while Ancelotti made just one substitution late on (Coentrao for Benzema).
Ancelotti will be hoping that the two week winter break of no matches between December 20 and January 4 coupled with the return of James Rodriguez and the likely arrival of Lucas Silva will help Real in terms of coping with the extremely hard months of January and February.
With the win, Real Madrid have now racked up an amazing 20 victories in a row as they head to Morocco for the FIFA 2014 Club World Cup, in what could be their fourth title of 2014. Real’s opponents in the semi-finals will be determined today as Cruz Azul face off against Western Sydney Wanderers. Most critics or pundits agree that the title is Real Madrid’s to lose, as their current form should prove too much for any team in this year’s Club World Cup.
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