Real Madrid has suffered a setback in their title ambitions with a 1-1 draw against Almeria, who are currently bottom of the La Liga table. A stubborn Almeria side prevented Los Blancos from securing all three points, despite the away side having an abundance of opportunities to grab the winning goal. Esteban Granero’s equalizer for Madrid cancelled out Jose Ulloa’s opener, but the result could nonetheless prove to be costly for Mourinho’s men in their pursuit to regain the La Liga title.
The first half was undoubtedly a quiet affair, with Los Blancos controlling play but unable to break the deadlock. The best chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to Angel Di Maria; a brilliant low ball by Kaka found Ronaldo who nearly slotted the ball past Diego alves, only for the goalkeeper to make a stunning close-range save. When the ball fell to Di Maria, the Argentine failed to capitalize on this golden opportunity with a mis-kick. The somewhat dull first half included very few other chances, with Almeria attacking mainly on the counter-attack.
The second half began with Madrid far more enthusiastic and lively than Almeria, and a Xabi Alonso long range strike and Sergio Ramos’ header nearly gave the away side the lead. Not long after this Kaka made way for Karim Benzema, despite the Brazilian being much more effective on pitch than fellow midfielders Mesut Oezil and Angel Di Maria. However, it was not long before the hosts surprisingly grapped the opener, courtesy of a run from Pablo Piatti who stormed into the penalty box before the ball fell to Ulloa who calmly slotted home past Casillas.
A tactical substitution soon followed, with Ricardo Carvalho and Granero on for Raul Albiol and Marcelo respectively. Real Madrid’s attempts to find the equalizer began soon after, with Ronaldo looking to respond immediately with a low shot at Alves’ near post. The ball was then ultimately diverted wide of the post by the goalkeeper’s foot. However, Madrid were not the only attacking side and Almeria could have been two goals up when Vargas controlled a cross field ball well and turned past Carvalho, but the ball was trapped under his feet before he could find the chance to have a shot at Casillas.
While Madrid continued to venture forward, they never really tested the Almeria defence or Alves, with Benzema barely touching the ball.
Los Blancos then soon challenged for a penalty when Ronaldo was brought down by Juanma Ortiz from behind, but the referee ordered play to continue, much to the dismay of the Madrid supporters. The equaliser was coming though and when Benzema did well to hold off two defenders from outside the box, he flicked it to the onrushing Granero who hammered the ball into the back of the net above Alves’ head.
With both teams aiming to find the match winning goal, tensions were high in the Stadium de los Juegos Mediterráneos, but neither team seemed to be able to break the deadlock. It was not until the very end during injury time that Ronaldo had two free kicks in ideal positions, with the second attempt striking the cross bar. Xabi Alonso latched onto the rebound with an excellent strike, but when the ball was blocked it was all over. The conclusion of the game was a bitter affair, with Casillas and Fabian Vargas coming together and having a heated argument, only for their teammates to come to their defence in what was an unsavoury end to the match.
The result leaves Madrid trailing Barcelona by 4 points at the top of the Primera table. Jose Mourinho will undoubtedly hope that his side’s title ambitions have not been dented, although overhauling the points deficit will be no easy task for Los Blancos. Almeria, on the other hand, still remain rooted to the bottom of the table, two points from safety. This particular result will surely provide them with a much needed confidence boost ahead of this week’s Copa del Rey clash with Deportiva La Coruna.
Final Score: Almeria 1 - Real Madrid 1
MAN OF THE MATCH: Diego Alves
By Alexander Novo - Spanish Correspondant