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RONALDO CLOSES IN ON RAUL AS RAYO VALLECANO FANS GET ANGRY
- Updated: 23 February, 2012
All good things generally come to an end, and after a run of six straight wins in the group stages, as well as a sequence of eleven consecutive away wins in the league and Champions League, Real Madrid’s relentless march towards the latter stages was checked by an injury time equaliser in sub zero temperatures in Moscow last night.
In all honesty the result should prove little more than a temporary hindrance to Mourinho’s men, who were far superior over the ninety minutes and should have no difficulty in dispatching their opponents in the return leg in the Bernabeu.
The man himself was typically upbeat after the game, although he still managed to fit in a dig at Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers for what he saw as a foul on Cristiano Ronaldo in the build-up to the home side’s goal.
Others might contest that the very same official was unduly lenient in allowing Fabio Coentrao to escape a second booking for the handball which led to the free kick from which the home side drew level.
However the fact remains that regardless of the officials’ influence on proceedings, ‘los merengue’ should have been well out of sight long before Pontus Wernbloom again exposed their weakness on set pieces to volley his side back into the tie.
The midfielder is apparently a member of a Real Madrid fan club back in his native Sweden, but had Callejon and Ronaldo converted any of a handful of chances which came their way in the second half, his goal would have been no more than a consolation rather than the ‘miracle’ which the Russian press duly labelled it.
Another cause for concern surrounds the withdrawal of Karim Benzema after just 13 minutes with a groin injury, which makes him a serious doubt for Sunday’s derby at Rayo Vallecano. The threat of a half empty stadium to greet them has loomed for much of the last week, which would not be unduly surprising were it not for the fact that the Estadio de Vallecas only holds just over 15,000.
The locals are very unhappy about the club’s decision to make everyone pay to see the game, even season ticket holders, in an attempt to shore up their ongoing precarious finances.
However in a working class area which is inevitably also feeling the strain of the country’s economic crisis, the decision has led to threats of boycotts from several supporters’ associations.
However the stand-off seems to have been ended by a subsequent decision to make 1,000 tickets available to unemployed season ticket holders for just five euros.
Meanwhile back in Moscow two of the visiting squad had a night of very different emotions. Ronaldo’s first half strike was his 36th goal of the season and also his 17th in the Champions League, drawing him level in second place with Fernando Morientes on the club’s all-time CL goalscoring list, and a mere 49 goals behind Raul.
However Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin once again sat and watched the whole ninety minutes from the sidelines, and it is now nearly two months since he last made it onto the field of play. Although Mourinho continues to maintain that Sahin is an important part of his future plans, the evidence suggests otherwise.
Finally some exciting news for Twitter addicts – it is now just seven days until Marca’s Real Madrid chief writer Tomas Roncero goes live! Hard to believe that even a paper with the ego of ‘Marca’ could consider it newsworthy, but the countdown has begun nevertheless, and Tomas is apparently very excited about it. For those who share his excitement, he will be tweeting from midday next Wednesday.Follow @icentrocampista