06 April 2013
Real Madrid keep racking up points in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. The Whites thrashed Levante and have still won every home league match this year. Despite how the match finished, they had to come from behind following Michel’s opening goal. They did so resoundingly. Higuain, with a beautiful volley, scored the goal of the match to equalise before Kaka, from a penalty, put Real Madrid ahead prior to the break. In the second half, Cristiano Ronaldo and a brace from Ozil completed a rout that could have been more had it not been for the brilliant performance of an inspired Munua. A morale boost before of the quarter-final second leg against Galatasaray.
Real Madrid were looking to maintain their perfect home league record this year and get their seventh straight home win in the championship. It was not going to be easy. The ever competitive Levante would try not to let that happen. The intentions of both teams were clear, as were the tactical approaches. The visitors chose to drop deep and let Real Madrid have control of the ball with the intention to surprise on the counter. The opening exchanges left that clear. Marcelo had the first shot on goal in the 2nd minute prior to Acquafresca’s effort two minutes later.
After the first ten minutes of play, the chances began to come for the home team thanks to their dominance in possession and continuous movement. They had four in just seven minutes. Higuain and Benzema, in the 13th and 14th respectively, had the first two of a series of shots from the edge of the box that was completed by Callejon, in the 19th minute, and Kaka a minute earlier. The Brazilian had the clearest of them up until that point. Higuain’s movement, taking two defenders with him, left the way open for the midfielder’s left-footed shot which brought the best out of Munua. Nevertheless, on the half-hour mark, it was the Valencian team that went ahead on the scoreboard. It came from a well worked counter-attack, although
Michel’s shot needed the lucky clip off of Pepe’s heel to take it beyond a surprised Diego Lopez.
A comeback was needed again, but there was not a long wait for it. Within just six minutes Higuain equalised and two minutes later Kaka, converting a penalty following a clear handball from Chris, put his team ahead. The equaliser, which was a work of art, deserves a special mention. Nobody was expecting Xabi Alonso’s cross and even less so were they expecting the Argentine’s acrobatic shot that ended in the back of the net. The vision to see the play was difficult enough but directing the shot goalwards was even trickier. The congratulations he received from his teammates and the ovation from the Bernabeu crowd is testament to that.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Ozil, with two, completed the rout
Mourinho decided to bring on Cristiano Ronaldo for Callejon after the break. It did not change the script of the match. In the first half it was Marcelo who had an attempt after two minutes and in the second half it was the right-back’s turn. An accurate pass from Benzema lead to Arbeloa’s wayward shot in the 47th minute. The Spanish international opened what was a torrent of chances for Real Madrid. Modric, from the edge of the box in the 48th minute, Benzema, with a header in the 50th, and Cristiano Ronaldo, with a flick after two step-overs that took him beyond Juanfran in the 52nd minute, all had opportunities. Even more beautiful was the interplay between the Frenchman and the Portuguese which ended in a back-heeled shot for the former nine minutes later.
Real Madrid were playing at will, but their constant stream of chances were not getting the rewards the deserved and with the lead still a single goal, the match was still very much alive. Munua’s particularly inspired the second half performance also helped. In fact, he was brilliant in response to a Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot from the edge of the area in the 75th minute and Ozil's header in the 80th minute. Five minutes later the decider came. A great self-pass by Higuain, who arrived at the dead-ball line before crossing with his left. Cristiano Ronaldo, who wasn’t going to miss out on another opportunity, controlled the ball on the bounce before beating the goalkeeper. It wasn’t the last goal of the match. Ozil, who replaced Benzema in the 76th minute, completed the scoring with a brace. His first goal, after 87 minutes, came following an exchange of roles with Ronaldo, with whom he connected perfectly. This time it was the Portuguese who made the assist and the German who put the ball into the back of the net. The second came from a shot near the penalty spot following a rebound. A perfect home league record this year and a morale booster ahead of the quarter-final second leg against Galatasaray.