10 March 2013
Real Madrid were far superior to Celta and deservedly came away with the win from the Balaidos stadium, and should have come away with a bigger margin given the number of chances that they created. The crossbar, which Cristiano Ronaldo found with a header, and Javi Varas’ blocks prevented any goals before the break. They all came in the second half. It was the Portuguese who put the Whites ahead by taking advantage of a rebound from a Callejon shot when he beat Javi Varas on the half-turn. Two minutes later the match was once again level. Aspas shot, but the ball deflected off of Pepe and beyond a wrong-footed Diego Lopez. Kaka's introduction in the 66th minute was decisive and five minutes later the Brazilian provoked a clear penalty that Cristiano Ronaldo converted.
In Balaidos Real Madrid were looking to continue their magnificent week in which they qualified for the cup final and the quarter-finals of the Champions League. It was not going to be easy considering that Celta were fighting to get out of the relegation zone and their stadium was filled to capacity for the first time this season. The home side’s bold and aggressive start, with a very high defensive line, was testament to that and they brought the best out of Diego Lopez, who showed the exceptional form that he is in. Aspas shot across the goal in the 10th minute and the visitors’ goalkeeper pushed the ball wide for a corner. The subsequent rehearsed set piece play ended with an Alex Lopez volley from the edge of the area and an amazing full stretch save from the Real Madrid goalkeeper.
After the first 20 minutes of play, the match changed radically and Real Madrid were the only team on the field. Cristiano Ronaldo had a chance in the 22nd minute. The Portuguese controlled the ball on the edge of the box, cut inside Krohn-Dehli and struck a powerful shot that was stopped by Javi Varas. Benzema’s chance two minutes later was much clearer. The opening was created by Ozil, who latched onto a ball that looked to be a lost cause and combined with the Frenchman, who went past Demidov and came one-on-one with the home side’s goalkeeper. The Galician team’s goalkeeper once again showed that he was on his game.
The Whites had another clear chance to score in the 31st minute, this time from a set-piece. The same players took leading roles as for the previous dangerous attack. Ozil took the free-kick and Benzema’s headed shot ended in the besieged Varas’ hands. In fact, three minutes later he had to prevent the first goal of the match from Marcelo’s shot from a difficult angle and in the 40th minute he shone again in another one-on-one but this time with Callejon. He was not the only thing stopping the Whites from scoring. The crossbar also made an appearance. A precise cross from Benzema following a double jink before Ronaldo’s header crashed against the crossbar in the 41st minute.
The goals came in the second half
Xabi Alonso replaced Khedira after the break. What did not change was how the match was developing. The visitors’ chances keep coming without delay in the second half. A shot from Benzema in the 55th minute and a header from Marcelo, which went high in the 57th minute following a 30 metre pass from Xabi Alonso, preceded the opening goal. It came from a corner taken by Ozil and following Callejon’s shot, Cristiano Ronaldo got to the rebound to beat Javi Varas on the half-turn in the 63rd minute. The Whites clearly deserved the lead but two minutes later got a rude awakening. A cross from the right flank resulted in Aspas’ shot, following which the ball deflected off of Pepe and beyond a wrong-footed Diego Lopez. The Whites’ once again suffered from some bad luck.
Mourinho decided to bring on Kaka and Higuain for Benzema and Callejon in the 66th minute. As happened last Tuesday at Old Trafford with Modric’s introduction, the Portuguese coach was shown to be have made the right move and the Brazilian provoked the decisive penalty five minutes later that was converted Cristiano Ronaldo. It came from a through ball from Xabi Alonso which Kaka picked up before being clearly brought down by Javi Varas. 1-2 and about 20 minutes before the end the match. Anything could have happened in that spell. Park’s shot hit the crossbar in the 88th minute and Higuain had two very clear opportunities to increase the margin. Their sixth straight win and what is the best way to continue a week in which Real Madrid have qualified for the cup final and the quarter-finals of the Champions League.