La Liga Result & Match Report
Real Madrid's 1-0 defeat to Deportivo La Coruna at the Riazor last night has, once again, thrown a lifeline to Barcelona in their pursuit of the Spanish League title. Los Merengues will see their 8 point lead at the top of La Liga reduced to just five points, if Barcelona can win at Almeria on Sunday evening...
Neither side created anything of note in an absolutely dreadful first half at the Riazor, and when Deportivo snatched the lead in the second through a Pepe own goal (57 mins) the visiting side were unable to muster any kind of an effective response. By the time Real Madrid next visit the Depor, they will have gone at least 18 seasons at that stadium without a win.
Roberto Soldado finally got the long awaited debut, that many have been calling for, in the absence of the injured Ruud Van Nistelrooy.
Unfortunately for Soldado, he may have to wait a little while longer before he next sees action in the Madrid colours as last nights performance was distinctly unimpressive. However, it would be harsh to place any blame on Soldado as he was arguably the better half of Real's striking partnership in a 4-4-2 formation: Raul was so totally anonymous at times it was easy to forget that he was even on the pitch.
Real Madrid may have enjoyed te greater share of possession throughout, but Deportivo's defensive 4-5-1 formation stifled the visitors and on a night that called for a spark of creativity from the Madrid midfield, it was found wanting. Sergio Gonzalez and Julian De Guzman at the heart of the Depor midfield completely nullified Guti's attempts to create and the home side's extra man infield was always used to good effect as neither Wesley Sneijder or Royston Drenthe enjoyed any freedom on the flanks.
With Real Madrid unable to turn possession in to chances, Bernd Schuster's decision to leave Gonzalo Higuaín, Julio Baptista and Robinho on the bench until the final stages of the match will surely be the topic of debate in the Madrid media throughout the week ahead.
Critics of Real Madrid have accused them of being incredibly lucky at times this season, but a slice of good fortune eluded them in Galicia last night and none will have felt it more so than Pepe. The Portuguese defender was very unlucky to direct Filipe's cross in to the back of his own net after having been Madrid's best player on the night. His team mate, Gabi Heinze summed it up: " Their goal was a matter of bad luck. Despite playing a correct match we weren't able to create many chances. We have to keep working and make sure we put all five senses into winning the league."
Last night's defeat means Real have won just two of their last eight matches, yet what most concerns the Madrid fans is Schuster's inability to recognise the team's failings: The Madrid coach persistently blames external influences (referees, bad luck, the weather etc) for the team's shortcomings and many feel that his refusal to accept defeat prevents him from identifying mistakes and rectifying them.
After last night's match, Shuster said "The game was a typical goalless draw. We did not deserve to lose."
It was a tremendous win for Deportivo who have seen a remarkable upturn in fortunes since adopting a more defensively minded formation in their last few games. Last night's victory leaves them with 34 points, but still alarmingly close to the drop zone. Depor coach Miguel Angel Lotina said afterwards : "We have spent two months in the bottom three and I would dare to say that the opposition needed to do more. It is evident that the team is better, above all we have more confidence and I think that there a lot of players here that are in their best form of the season."
Aouate, Manuel Pablo, Lopo, Pablo Amo, Coloccini, Sergio, De Guzmán, Filipe, Wilhelmsson, Lafita, Xisco
Subs: Antonio Tomás, Riki, Guardado
Casillas, Torres, Heinze, Pepe, Cannavaro, Diarrà, Guti, Drenthe, Sneijder, Raúl, Soldado
Subs: Robinho, Baptista, Higuaín