2018/19 in Pictures: Games 18 and 19

A couple of very different games as October continues.

Game 18: Rayo Majadahonda 1-0 Real Oviedo (Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid – 14.10.2018

Another international weekend meant no top flight football in Spain and with a shortage of lower league options at decent kick-off times, it was back to the Wanda I went.

Thankfully there was no really long queue this time, but still no Rayo Majadahonda merchandise stall – though oddly there was a Real Oviedo one.

Always odd when the away team has a merchandise stall and the home team doesn’t.

It was probably pretty busy as the away support in the stadium massively outnumbered the home fans. The combination of a holiday weekend, cheap and easily available tickets in a world-class stadium  and a relatively short journey from Asturias made it a very attractive fixture for Oviedo fans and they certainly travelled in numbers.

If I thought the Extremadura support at my previous Rayo Majadahonda game was impressive, the Oviedo crowd was something else. They almost filled the designated away section (again, oddly domiciled in the top tier behind the North goal, rather than the lower tiers) and around me, almost everyone was wearing something blue or draped in an Asturian flag. The noise they made was pretty special as well.

Alas once again, the team couldn’t produce a performance to equal the support they received. It was another mediocre performance, arguably worse than the one they’d turned in at Alcorcón a fortnight previously. In contrast, Rayo were industrious and fought for every ball – there could be no real complaints when they scored the games only goal in injury time, fortunately for them at the end of the stadium where their small, but vocal band of supporters were situated.

As for me, my miserable record watching Oviedo continues. I’ve still to see them win a game away from the Carlos Tartiere in what is now six attempts.

Game 19: Real Madrid 1-2 Levante (Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid – 20.10.2018)

Well, well. What about this?

The opening 20 minutes were all kinds of bonkers and brilliant. Levante took the lead after only seven minutes when Morales capitalised on poor defending from Varane before taking the ball round  Courtois and finishing with aplomb.

Then six minutes later, Levante were lining up a free kick on the edge of the area when suddenly VAR intervened and upgraded it to a penalty! The video replay had revealed the handball which brought about the free kick had been marginally inside the area. Roger Marti made no mistake from the spot and suddenly the European Champions had a mountain to climb.

In the build-up to this game, much had been said about Madrid’s goalless run, but it looked to be over after 18 minutes of this match. Sergio Ramos rose highest to meet the ball, his header struck the underside of the bar and bounced down onto the line before Asensio followed up to make sure. ‘Hala Madrid’ rang out around the stadium as Ramos grabbed the ball and ran back to place it in the centre circle for kick off. But VAR had other ideas.

Ramos’ effort had not in fact crossed the line and Asensio had actually been in an offside position when he followed up, so to the bemusement/confusion of the home fans, the ball was kicked back to Levante ‘keeper Oier to restart with a free kick.

Oier would go on to have a stormer of a game, making a number of eye-catching saves to keep Madrid at bay. And when he couldn’t get a hand to it, the woodwork came to Levante’s rescue.

They thought they had made it 3-0 late in the first half, but this time VAR saved Madrid from any further embarrassment by spotting an offside in the build-up. In truth, going in 3-0 down wouldn’t have been any less than the utterly shambolic men in white deserved as they were whistled off by their fans at the break.

So after the interval, attention turned to the goalless record. Unless Madrid could score before the 55th minute was up, they would set a new club record for the longest goal drought. And surely enough, despite the introduction of Gareth Bale, Oier remained unbeaten.

(Note: Despite the record goal drought stat being widely reported for the last few weeks, no one seemed to notice that in one of the games in the previous record run included extra time, so this Madrid team didn’t actually set a new record. Unless you included stoppage time, in which case they almost certainly did. Thanks to Sid Lowe on Twitter for pointing this out.)

The run would eventually end with Marcelo, one of the few Madrid players who actually seemed to care, leathering the ball past Oier with 18 minutes left. Suddenly the Bernabeu came to life and Madrid laid siege to the Levante penalty area. The visitors were clearly tiring and couldn’t break in behind Madrid’s high line in the way they had done so successfully earlier in the game.

Benzema, on as a second half substitute, hit the post and Mariano, the man *ahem* lucky enough to inherit a certain number 7 shirt, was denied a late equaliser by a correctly-raised flag.

Morales could have rubbed more salt in the wound late on, just missing the target in a rare foray upfield, but Levante has done enough and celebrated what was only their second ever win at the Bernabeu ecstatically, receiving polite applause from the Madridistas who remained at full time.

As for Julen Lopetegui, well, at time of writing he is still Real Madrid manager but his time is surely running out. You have to feel a bit sorry for him as they’ve not properly replaced Ronaldo and certain key players are putting in lazy performances week after week. Somehow I doubt he’ll still be around next time I go to at game at the Bernabeu.

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Levante celebrate while Julen Lopetegui wonders if he has just managed his last game at the Bernabeu.

 

I certainly picked a good game for my first trip to the Santiago Bernabeu this season. Goals, lots of incidents, controversy and an underdog win.

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