Thursday, March 11, 2010
Bravo OL! Lyon knock out Real Madrid in Champions League
The upset of this year's Champions League - Lyon go to the Santiago Bernabeu get the draw and move on to the 1/4 finals. I did not think that Lyon would be able to repeat what they did at home to Real, I tip my hat to the Gones. As has been already written and said, it was really a game of two halves. After Ronaldo scored within the first 10 minutes, I feared that the flood gates would open that the second goal was not far behind. The second goal wasn't far behind, except Higuain inexplicably hit the post after he had beaten Lloris and had a wide open goal to shoot at. Higuain also had a chance to add a second when his shot was deftly saved by Lloris but had the Argentine squared the ball in the box to Ronaldo the Portuguese playmaker would have had a simple tap in.
Real would not have any better chances after squandering those two Higuain opportunities. At the restart Puel made some tactically wise moves that turned the game in the second half - bringing in Kallstrom and Gonalons for Boumsong and Makoun. He slotted Toulalan back as a central back allowing Gonalons to take over the holding role. The game completely changed with Lyon taking the initiative and Real starting to doubt themselves. It was only a matter of time but the Pjanic goal was well deserved. The goal started with a long clearance from Lloris and exemplified by a Real defense that was not aggressive enough in attacking the ball allowing it to drop to Lopez at the penalty dot who coolly dropped it for an on rushing Pjanic who made no mistake with his finishing.
With less than a 1/4 hour left Real were defeated, they knew they would need 2 goals to go through due to the away goal rules. Clearly they were aware of their fate and nothing exemplified their frustration more than Raul's blow up at Cris late in the game. Of course Lyon could have completely iced the game away had they not missed two 1v1 situations with Casillas late on, both times inexplicably putting the ball wide or high, not even forcing the Spain #1 into a save.
So Lyon will move on to the next round, Real's dream of going for title #10 at home (the finals of the Champions League are in Madrid) have been squashed. Of course the long knives are out as many are questioning Pellegrini and whether or not he will survive at Real. First I think that the Real manager will be shown the door this summer, with the likes of Rafa and the Special One looked at to take over the reigns. Second, unfortunately I do not think it is the manager's fault. Once again Real went out and spent like drunken sailors - spending a quarter billion euros on players - and with that spend thought the 10th Champions League title was theirs for the taking. I guess not. Unfortunately for Real fans, I am not sure the money was spent wisely. Yes they acquired 2 of the top players in the world - Kaka and Ronaldo. They bought the best French player in Ligue 1 - Benzema. But did they have a plan for how they were going to play this year? Not sure. Why pay for Benzema when you already have Higuian up front? I am not sure you need both Kaka and Ronaldo, they both play some what similar styles, granted Ronaldo is a traditional winger, but they both like to dictate the pace of the game.
Real will challenge Barca for the League title, no doubt. But they ultimate prize - the Champions League - is no longer a possibility. For this Pellegrini will lose his job and the managerial merry go round at the Bernabeu will start again this summer. My early odds - The Special One 4:1, Rafa 9:1, Wenger 14:1, Domenech 2b:1.....
One more note from the match - slotting Toulalan along side Cris was fantastic. I really believe that Toulalan would make a good center back. He has unlimited amounts of energy always running and working...the problem is when he is in the midfield sometimes that running is done just for the sake of running - chasing shadows. However if you slot him at center back, the position forces him to be more disciplined. He can still leverage his pace and energy as well as his strong defensive understanding. The one down side is he is not the largest player in terms of height. But something to ponder for Les Blues.