Real Madrid allowed three goals for the first time this season, away to fourth place Malaga, in a 3-2 loss. The hosts richly deserved their win. Unfortunately for Real fans the loss was suffered on a day in which Real’s coach, Jose Mourinho, decided, for criteria only he could have, to bench the best goalkeeper in the world. His team seemed out of sorts both on defense and on offense and the usually untimely substitutions did nothing to ameliorate the situation.
Cristiano Ronaldo, clearly upset with the lack of good feeds to play with, closed out his year without another goal. By the time Mou decided to make his substitutions Cristiano was no longer a factor. Curiously, in the latter part of the second half, several sublime give and goes between Mesut Ozil and Kaka must have made the Real fan-base wonder–what if?
In the post game press conference Sergio Ramos said: “Casillas’ benching caught us all by surprise, but he is our captain and will continue being such.” Asked why Casillas was benched Mourinho responded that “Because [Casillas’ replacement] Adan is in better form than Casillas, in my opinion, and my opinion is the only one that matters.” Asked if he now feared for his job, Mou responded: “No. Never. I did not start coaching two days ago, I know how football is and how no one has any memory of past achievements. We coaches live day to day, game to game, with our results. Sometimes things don’t work out and when they don’t they don’t.”
Meanwhile, Barcelona FC won its away game handily to widen the gap between the archrivals to an insurmountable 16 points. Lionel Messi closed out his personal goal scoring run at 91 for the calendar year with another great solo run goal to help Barca win away against Valladolid 3-1. It was Messi’s 9th consecutive game with at least one goal, but it ended his run of 2+ goals per game at eight.
As we close out the first 17 weeks of the 38-game La Liga season, and go into the Christmas Break, a few things seem certain: Messi has done more than enough to earned his fourth consecutive FIFA Ballon d’Or, Barcelona FC has won the La Liga title, and Mourinho’s egocentric world view and football perspective go unabated for yet another half-a-season.
It also seems clearer, as reported before, that it will be the potential semifinals between Barca and Real, and the rest of the Champions League competition, that will tell the tale for Real’s year and Mourinho’s continued stay at the Bernabeu. For Barca, the sky is still the limit as a victory in the Copa del Rey semis will leave them an open road to a domestic double and set up a chance for a treble with the Super Copa next year. If they stay true to form, another double, the Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup trophies, are not out of reach.
Finally, if those accomplishments come Lio’s way, in addition to a fourth best player on the planet trophy, and his sealed record of 91 goals in calendar year, even his harshest critics will have to admit the diminutive Argentine will have begun to set himself up favorably for a run at football’s pantheon.