Madrid’s El Sadar blues continue

Luka Modric went down in the box and the Real Madrid players swarmed around referee Clos Gomez. The replay showed that the Croatian had tricked his way around Osasuna defender Alejandro Arribas, who in turn had made contact with him as he fell to the ground. But it was not penalty as Gomez waved play on. It was a sign of things to come for the visiting Spanish giants.

Not 15 minutes later, Gomez called a foul against Sergio Ramos and gave the defender a yellow card for it. At best it seemed harsh if not a foul at all. Ramos would not make it to half-time as he was then shown a second caution and consequently a red card for a raised elbow which Roberto Torres made a three-course meal of. In addition to being down to 10 men, by this stage Los Blancos were also down by two goals.

To their credit, Carlo Ancelotti’s side did manage to get back into the game. A strike from Isco before half-time and an equaliser from Pepe 10 minutes from time saw them come away with at least a point. However, post-game it was the referee who won all the headlines.

AS’s front page on Sunday read: ‘The referee makes the difference… he denies Madrid a clear penalty and sends off Ramos’. Marca took a similar view but were more dramatic: ‘Enough to make you cry’. Such a reaction from the two Madrid-based sports dailies was hardly surprising, but, this weekend their grievances did have some justification.

While Ramos’ second offence perhaps warranted a booking, his first certainly did not. It was hardly even a foul let alone a booking. After the game Carlo Ancelotti lamented: “It is hard to comprehend the first caution.” Diego Lopez and Daniel Carvajal shared the view of their Italian boss.

The furore bubbled over to Monday morning with Marca crying: ‘Ramos and Madrid are tired of the treatment by this referee’. And, as ungraceful as it all may sound, this was not the first time Gomez has drawn the ire of Madrid. Last season in the same fixture he sent off Ricky Kaka just 20 minutes after coming on as a substitute.  In 2010, Jose Mourinho listed the 13 mistakes made by Clos as he controversially sent off Ricardo Carvalho.

Madrid have a right this time to feel aggrieved, but, at the same time it must be noted that it was while playing with 11 men that they conceded the two goals both scored by Oriol Riera. The first was a result of poor marking in the box and the second by way of Madrid’s difficulties in defending set pieces. Madrid will do themselves no favours if they do not at least recognise this. In addition to their poor defending, Cristiano Ronaldo was not his usual self. He missed a great chance in the early stages that, like the red card later on, could have conditioned the game, but in Madrid’s favour.

As a sense of injustice prevailed around Madrid’s result, a sense of fortune was felt at the Camp Nou. A soft penalty decision gave Neymar the chance to put his side in the lead and he made no mistake. The Brazilian then capped off another fine display with the winner in the second half. With five goals in two games, Neymar is making sure Lionel Messi is not being missed too much.

Another Brazilian was on song over the weekend too. Diego Costa scored twice to lead Atletico Madrid to a comfortable 3-0 win over Valencia. Atleti remain equal with Barca at the top while Costa now has equalled Ronaldo’s tally of 17 goals this season. Costa and company just keeping rolling on.