It has been several days since Real Madrid beat Espaňyol to move closer to Barçelona, who remain atop La Liga by five points. But since then, I’ve come to realize how huge Marcelo’s rocket-blast of a goal that won the game has come to be, for him as well as Los Merengues.
In the past, the diminutive Brazilian has been the concern and apprehension of many Madridistas, including some of those in the club. Much maligned at times, the Brazilian has shown he definitely has the football skills and silky Samba-specialness to deliver the goods for Real Madrid.
An outstanding team effort resonated deeply within all realms of Real Madrid. Iker Casillas’ dismissal in the second minute made the chaotic turnaround that much more impressive. Young goalkeeper Antonio Adan’s unlikely appearance resounded with deep confidence, with mutual adulation from teammates and coach alike.
Jose Mourinho even called Antonio by his first name in postmatch comments, which should be considered a compliment of the highest regard considering Mourinho hardly ever calls his players by their first name.
Emmanuel Adebayor and Cristiano Ronaldo had exceptional games as well, as the Togolese and Portuguese internationals worked in sync from the beginning.
Whether this has to do with the fact that both played in the Premier League or just a natural occurrence, the fact remains that both these players seem to know each other well on the pitch, and this provided Madrid with numerous goal chances that just missed the mark.
Adebayor gave it his all for 90-plus minutes, missing on several short ranges, but credit must be given to Espaňyol keeper Carlos Kameni for his great saves. Mourinho declared afterwards that Adebayor played the part of three men, which was true. Even stalwart defender Pepe stated in an interview with Marca that Adebayor “worked his ass off.”
But what the victory at the Cornellà-El Prat provided most was the extraordinary display of Marcelo and his ability to trek the pitch as a vicious virus, infecting the Espaňyol defense with his quickness and maneuverability, not to mention his prowess to remain rigidly stoic on defense.
The consternation that he should be replaced should be given less consideration now. Mourinho declared that “Marcelo played for both him and (Angel) di Maria,” who had to be substituted for Adan because of Casilla’s removal.
But this proved beneficial. The confidence of Marcelo in this game was apparent: with his ability to escape on defense—sometimes surrounded by three men—with chaotic pinball moves, the wherewithal to toe the line with the ball as he jetted up the field and the awareness to slip through cracks in the defense made him more dangerous than James Bond in a casino.
Marcelo's goal was the light of the world. He struck gold from a clean pass in the box from one of his best friends, Cristiano Ronaldo. With nowhere to go but forward, Marcelo snaked towards Kameni’s right and with the slimmest of angles fired a shot that furiously ricocheted Kameni’s arm and into goal. It was a wild goal with a wild celebration.
Mourinho looked pleased with a wry smile as Marcelo high-fived him. The Brazilian extolled the virtues of scoring with a personal celebration of dancing, smiling and gulping a bottle of water out of excitement.
What this means for Madrid is a gain of confidence. A victorious shot through the veins that should provide a momentum shift for Los Blancos chances to overtake Barcelona in La Liga this season. It’s now not out of the question and a true Madridista would say it never was.
And what it does for Marcelo is perhaps of even greater significance. Perhaps because he was given the captain’s armband since Iker was dismissed or perhaps it was just one of those great nights for an individual player, but it bodes well for the jovial, carefree Marcelo to establish himself fully into the starting eleven.
After this game, it seems unlikely that he’ll be removed from his defensive responsibilities anytime soon. Spanish newspaper El País called him “a train without brakes” and the enormity of the victory for both Real Madrid and Marcelo is best summed up by the Brazilian himself: “We’re a family and we always want to win each time we play," Marcelo said.
"I’m happy to score and help the team but the most important thing is the victory and narrowing the gap with Barcelona.” Barcelona lost recently in their knockout stage game at Arsenal; these words ring even truer.
Should Real Madrid bring Gaël Clichy, Patrice Evra or Fábio Coentrão to the Bernabeu? One thing is for sure: no matter what anyone’s opinion of the club is, Madridistas are some of the best and loyal supporters. With performances like this, Marcelo will have risen from forgettable to lovable and it is difficult to replace a man who is loved.
Is it not?