On the night they had to prove that they could win a game without their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, Madrid crumbled and were held to goal-less draw by a brave Osasuna.
Under the heavy rain in Navarra, Madrid produced a performance as miserable as the weather and can be flattered by the point they took out of the team standing at the foot of the La Liga table.
Every Madridista will be worried by this run of results in the league and the increasing reliance on the Portuguese star.
The game was marked by his absence, with both Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema failing to stand in and provide the goals the Portuguese tirelessly scores. Madrid’s first, and only, threatening shot on target came from Benzema in the very last minute of the game and was comfortably saved by goalkeeper Andrés Fernández.
It was also the third match in a row that Madrid finished with 10 men, thanks to a childish double yellow card for substitute Kaka, who remained on the pitch for less than 15 minutes.
He received a yellow in his first involvement in the game by elbowing Rubén in the face. In the 75th minute he impeded Osasuna taking a free kick just under the nose of the referee, was shown a second yellow and sent off for the first time since playing in Europe.
The central pair of Raphael Varane and Raul Albiol looked particularly weak and forced Madrid’s midfield to lay deep and cover for them, handing that area of the pitch to Osasuna for large periods of the game. As a consequence, the team from Navarre had the best chances of the game and looked sharper throughout. Had their finishing been more clinical, they could have won this game comfortably.
Madrid’s impotence and frustration were best illustrated by Xabi Alonso’s three halfhearted attempts from more than 40 yards that represented half of the team’s total shots.
Angel Di María’s performance after his return to the starting XI was also woeful, barely having any impact on the game before being substituted for Mesüt Özil in the 67th minute. The only spark of the game from Madrid came in the 78th minute, when Jose Callejón had a goal disallowed by a very close, but correct, offside call.
With this result, Madrid could be seven points of Atlético Madrid and 18 points of Barcelona by the end of Sunday. More worryingly, they will have to start looking at the teams below them in the table rather than above. Both Málaga and Betis could end up just three points off the holding champions.
On the other hand, if Osasuna find the energy levels to produce these kind of performances on a regular basis, they may well escape the bottom three and remain in the top division.
Man of the Match: Marc Bertrán, he embodied Osasuna’s commitment and energy, constantly attacking down his right channel and making a match-saving tackle on Luka Modric in the 29th minute.
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