All is fine in Madrid again

It may not have been pretty, but, few in Madrid cared. This would have been obvious to anyone reading the Madrid based sports dailies on Sunday morning. ‘An eight-point victory’, read AS, who calculated the points dropped by rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona coupled with those won by Real Madrid. Meanwhile, Marca’s headline claimed ‘the race for the League is back on’. Yes, that is how it is in Spain these days, League titles can be considered lost even at this early stage of the season.

Hence why few were concerned with how Madrid still did not fully convince. On the other side of the coin however, they were not that bad either. In fact, it was probably their best performance to date under Carlo Ancelotti. It says much for how under-par they have been prior.

Real Madrid bossed possession and created countless chances against Malaga and were it not for the heroics of Willy Caballero who was simply brilliant in goal, they would have scored more than just two goals. The Argentine made no fewer than 13 saves, many of them of the highest order. He single-handedly prevented Madrid from running riot, leading to his compatriot, Angel di Maria, to question why he has still yet to be called up the national team. And it is a good question.

Nevertheless, Madrid still look like a work in progress, albeit one that is steadily progressing. For all their efforts to become a more positive and attacking side, they still look best when playing on the counter-attack – a vestige of the side built under Jose Mourinho. Yet, encouragingly their first goal – though somewhat fortuitous – did come after some steady build-up play from the back.

Aside from the delight at seeing both their title rivals drop points for the first time this season, there were other reasons to be upbeat too. Alvaro Morata was one. The young Spaniard is very much a favourite already at the Santiago Bernabeu and did everything to justify being given his first starting appearance by Ancelotti – apart from scoring and even as he did come close. Morata left to a standing ovation to be replaced by Gareth Bale and this was another reason for the cheery mood. The €100m-man has hardly played since his arrival in the summer but treated the home crowd to some flashes of his talent while it was he who won the penalty in the last minute – even if it was a hardly a penalty.

But, the best part of the night was still to come for Madridistas after the final whistle, first in Pamplona and later at Cornella-El Prat. For the first time in 64 matches, Barcelona were kept goalless, by a determined Osasuna who halted the champions’ winning start to the season. Then it was the turn of Espanyol to spring another surprise result. A curious own-goal by Thibaut Courtois was enough to also end Atletico’s 100 per cent record.

With everything falling their way, Madrid fans will have an extra kick in their step this week. Their team is very much back in the reckoning and it is just in time too, as the Camp Nou awaits them next Saturday.

Read more from Frank Tigani at The Divine Ponytail.

La Liga - Club News