Real Mallorca 1 Real Madrid 1: Real title defence boosted by Robben's mazy magic
Monday 07 April 2008
Arjen Robben is finally beginning to pay back some of the £24m Real Madrid invested in him last summer. He brilliantly made the goal that helped the champions to another precious point in their battle to retain the title.
With seven games to go Madrid remain La Liga favourites but only early- season form and the inconsistency of those around them is keeping them in pole position. Robben's magic, and some help from referee Arturo Dauden Ibanez, helped them draw this game.
They should have been behind after Fernando Navarro shot past Iker Casillas but, inexplicably, the referee decided Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos had been fouled by Juan Fernando Arango and ruled out the goal.
Madrid players looked as stunned as the home side. Valera had crossed from the right and before Fernando finished it Ramos and Arango had clashed but if anything Ramos looked to have fouled Arango as he lunged to get ahead of the Mallorca striker.
The decision boosted the visitors and 10 minutes later they were ahead. Robben set off on a mazy run that took him into the penalty area and past three Mallorca defenders. He drew the goalkeeper and squared for Wesley Sneijder who had the easiest of tap-ins to put the visitors ahead.
"I was happy to score said," said Sneijder. "But all of the credit has to go to Robben. It was a spectacular run and cross." Robben arrived at Madrid injured, barely passed his medical and spent most of the first half of the season in the treatment room but at last he is performing and keeping Robinho out of the team.
After the goal Ibanez then denied Mallorca a penalty as both he and his linesman missed a handball from Fabio Cannavaro. But the referee did his best to make up for his first half mistakes with another in the second half this time in favour of Mallorca.
He gave full-back Sergio Ramos two harsh bookings, first for handball and then for a trip. After the 66th-minute sending off, Mallorca took advantage of the extra man and in particular of Real Madrid manager Bernd Schuster's strange decision to bring on midfielder Mohammad Diarra at right-back when he had two defenders on the bench.
Substitute Borja Valero threatened down the Madrid right before he hit the equaliser with a spectacular shot after exchanging passes with Arango. But those around him were struggling to hit the target and, with winger Jonas particularly guilty of woeful finishing, Madrid were able to cling on for the draw.
"Things were a lot more comfortable for us before the sending off," said Schuster. "The change affected us but we are happy with the point especially at this stage of the season."
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Casillas; Ramos, Heinze, Cannavaro, Marcelo; Guti, Gago, Sneijder (Torres, 74); Higuain (Diarra, 58), Raul (Baptista, 80), Robben.
Real Mallorca (4-4-2): Moya; Hector (Webo, 78), Ramis (D Navarro, 27), Nunes, F Navarro; Varela (Borja Valero, 67), Basinas, Ibagaza, Jonas; Arango, Guiza.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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