The last ‘pit stop’ before the Club World Cup in Morocco, Real Madrid played Almeria away from home in a match that was supposed to be easy but was made slightly difficult by a motivated Almeria side. Real Madrid’s 1st half performance in particular was below par as they struggled with creating chances and narrowly ended the half with a 1-goal advantage. While the second half saw a complete 180 degrees change as Ancelotti’s men played much better football and created loads of chances while only lacking in finishing abilities. 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 capitalise on the momentum swing to actually go ahead. With Iker’s save though nothing of the sorts 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 2 weeks ‘vacation’ of no matches his team will get between December 20th and January 4th 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 now head to Morocco for the FIFA 2014 Club World Cup, in what could be their 4th title of 2014. Real’s opponents in the semi-finals will be determined today as Cruz Azul face off against Wester 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.
Man of the Match – Cristiano Ronaldo
Perhaps a surprising choice, but Cristiano’s complete shift in attitude and performance in the second half lifted Madrid greatly as the team seemed more in control and more dangerous than the Real Madrid we saw in the first half. He also ended the night with the most goals, most shots, most shots in target, second most crosses, and third most key passes. With his 2 goals last night, he has also matched the all-time La Liga record for most goals after 15 rounds with 25 goals (even though he missed round 2). His brace also lifted him to a total of 32 goals in all competitions this season, a ridiculous goal tally when the first half of the season hasn’t even finished yet. He will now set his eyes on breaking Messi record of most goals scored in the opening half of the season which currently stands at 28 goals, set in 2012/13. On his current rate, he is also firmly in place to break Messi’s 50-goal record in La Liga and 73-goal record for a season in all competitions.