Jose Mourinho has last laugh against Manchester City, as Real Madrid finally find their rhythm
The 'Special One' wins his battle of wits with Roberto Mancini – but only just
Wednesday 19 September 2012
1. Mourinho v Mancini
With Real Madrid team selections it used to be all the president's men but Mourinho picks who he wants and last night, with $1.3bn worth of talent in the two squads, he surprised everyone by leaving out Sergio Ramos. In his place 19-year-old Raphael Varane did what he was told by Mourinho's marshal on the pitch, Pepe, and they dealt with the threat of an isolated Carlos Tevez. But when Edin Dzeko arrived the soft centre was exposed by Yaya Touré's brilliant run and pass and City were in front. Mancini's substitution had changed the game though Mourinho's decision to pick Marcelo ahead of Fabio Coentrao did pay off, as did the decision to bring on Karim Benzema for Gonzalo Higuaín.
2. Tank Touré
With Michael Essien's surprise inclusion in the starting line-up Yaya Touré, the most powerful midfield force in the Premier League, was up against the man who previously held that title. Madrid purists will have cursed 29-year-old Essien starting ahead of Mesut Ozil and Luka Modric but Mourinho gave the on-loan Chelsea midfielder a specific job – break up play and either give the ball back to Xabi Alonso or forward to Ronaldo. He carried it out to the letter until taken off on the hour and shortly after Touré ran away from the white shirts to tee-up Dzeko for the goal. He had promised as much in the first half leaving Essien behind on the half hour and sliding a pass through for Tevez, only for the Argentine to be ruled offside.
3. Taxi for Maicon
Maicon will have been seeing visions of Gareth Bale in the first 20 minutes as Ronaldo ran at the Manchester City right-back in much the same way the Tottenham man had done two seasons ago. Not coming from quite so deep and more inclined to shoot early, he should have scored with one effort clipped low to Joe Hart's left – having gone past Maicon as he slipped. When Marcelo overlapped Ronaldo 10 minutes into the second half, the Brazilian had an even bigger problem but the cross fizzed across the the six-yard box without finding a finishing touch. He was spared the last 15 minutes replaced by Pablo Zabaleta but immediately Marcelo struck the equaliser.
4. The keepers
Hart would not have made an XI picked from these two teams before the game started – hard not to include a World Cup and European Championship winner – but he stole the show in the first half with Casillas untroubled by City at the other end. He saved well twice from Ronaldo and blocked Higuaín's effort just before the break. Time was up when Ronaldo whipped his final effort of the night in from the edge of the area and it big the young England keeper.
5. Silva's send-off
There was a glint in David Silva's eye when he was asked before the game if he had spoken to his Spain international team-mates about the troubles inside the Real Madrid dressing room. Up against the man he won the World Cup with Alvaro Arbeloa, he struggled to find space but he would have been as surprised as anyone by Mourinho's decision to drop Ramos and he caused most problems when he wondered inside looking to attack 19-year-old Varane. From one such run he flipped a pass to Touré that was just too heavy. When he was taken off on the hour, the stadium rose as one to salute the Spain international – relieved he had not had one of his best nights.
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