Almost two decades after their last victory at el Estadio Riazor in La Coruña, Real Madrid won convincingly Saturday night against Deportivo. Unsuccessful in their last six trips to the Galician grounds, the capital side earned their first victory in the stadium since the 1991-1992 season. What really impressed was not only the decisive away result but the manner in which Los Blancos dominated the game. Possession and precision passing were crucial in Madrid's victory but it was the bold back-heel assist from Guti that stole the show, setting up Karim Benzema to double the visitor's advantage at the end of the first half. As comparisons to Barcelona have been made throughout the year, many critics have been quick to point to Barcelona's team game as why the Catalan club is still the best in Spain; however, the way in which Real commanded the pace of play Saturday night has many wondering if this team is finally coming together.
Teams with good chemistry know where their teammates will be at every moment on the pitch as if they can read each others minds. Barcelona plays with such allure, a reason that has set the club on its own level; however, watching Madrid on Saturday night it seemed as if the boys in white had been playing with each other for years. There is no doubt the talent there at Manuel Pellegrini’s disposal; the question looming throughout the season has been whether or not the team could mold before the league title was out of reach. Ignoring last week’s Crisitano Ronaldo controversy, Real Madrid put together a convincing argument that this squad is now playing as complete team.
After a Kaka ball set Guti free with just the keeper to beat, the Spaniard opted to pass not shoot, back-heeling the ball into the path of Karim Benzema. The Frenchman, who has struggled to adjust with the Spanish giants, finished easily. An bold, even impudent, goal that not only doubled Madrid's advantage but signaled much more about Madrid’s character. Save a lazy, foolish foul by Sergio Ramos that lead to an eighty-seventh penalty, and Coruña's goal, Madrid played a fantastic game from start to finish. French maligned striker Karim Benzema was on target, his double leading Madrid to a vital three points, keeping pace with league leaders Barcelona. Xabi Alonso played his best game of the season so far, completing almost all of his passes while dictating the pace of play in the center of the pitch. Ambitious to say after one solid performance, but as the season wears on, the two aforementioned newcomers may be slowly finding themselves playing with more confidence for the capital side.
With a trip to La Coruña behind them, Real Madrid’s schedule for the remainder of the year is very favorable for Pellegrini’s men. Trailing leaders Barcelona by only five points and with eighteen games to be played, Madrid has already made trips to the most dangerous away venues including Villarreal, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, and last Saturday in La Coruña. Real Madrid continues to be perfect at home, where they will face their toughest remaining matches; however, Barcelona has yet to lose a league match and while five points may not seem daunting, Real cannot afford to fall much farther behind the reigning champions. It certainly seems as if Pellegrini’s squad has found their rhythm but only time will tell if Saturday’s performance is the start of a spectacular run or just a solid away victory.