Monday, February 25, 2008

La Liga Roundup: Things Fall Apart in Madrid

February has not been kind to La Liga leaders Real Madrid. Coming into Sunday's meeting with crosstown minnows Getafe, los Merengues had dropped two of three league matches this month, and most recently lost to Roma 2-1 in the Champions League. Surely, they could close the month out with a win and maintain their distance over second place Barcelona. Manager Bernd Schuster certainly thought so, saying on Saturday, "I don't think I'll wake up on Monday morning and find Barca are only two points behind us."

Oops. Seriously, watch this video and laugh in the general direction of Madrid.

Here's what happened:
Arjen Robben thought he had put Real in the lead after 65 minutes but as the Real players started to celebrate referee Arturo Dauden Ibanez ruled that captain Raul Gonzalez was offside before he passed to his Dutch team mate.

Getafe quickly took the ensuing free kick and executed a swift counter-attack against their opponents now under-manned defense.

Franceso Casquero broke free and laid the ball off to Manu Del Moral who, in turn, passed to Ikechuckwu Uche and the Nigerian coolly slotted the ball home with his right foot from 10 metres out.

To go from thinking you're up 1-0, and then moments later finding yourself down 0-1, that's heartbreaking stuff - not exactly watching-your-teammate's-leg-snap disheartening, but pretty damn close.

While the 1-0 scoreline held, Barça took care of Levante 5-1, which meant Schuster did indeed wake up Monday morning with their rivals nipping at his heel.

In a way, the Getafe goal serves as a microcosm of Madrid's recent form. At the beginning of February, Real held a comfortable 9-point lead on Barcelona, but while the leaders stumbled, Barcelona has scraped together a nice run of form to make La Liga a two-horse race again.

Across town from Bernabau, Atlético Madrid is in a similar tailspin, having picked up just one point from the last six matches. Sevilla, meanwhile, is on a hot streak, having won 7 of the last 8 and drawn one, against Barcelona. After a 5-0 thrashing of Zaragoza, they are now just two points behind Atlético for fourth place and the final Champions League spot.

Anyhoo, once again, here's Arjen Robben looking really confused:

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