The 2010-2011 campaign got off to a very tumultuous start for Madrid on Sunday night in Mallorca. Mourinho quickly hailed the team's defensive structure, which, in fairness, looks to be the most improved unit on the pitch, but he was quick to rue the opportunities squandered through poor finishing.
It is the beginning of a long season, and Mourinho emphasized the fact that his squad is still developing; however, Madrid faithful know that time is off the essence as slipping too far behind holders Barcelona could prove fateful. Two-time defending champions, the Catalunian club lost only one match last season. Madrid's La Liga fate will not be decided in the coming weeks, but the theme of campaign must be earning results while still coming together as a team.
The defence was improved, but not flawless. Balls played into the area, especially those to the Mallorcans being marked by Marcelo (who continues to show he is not a high quality left back), found unmarked men too often. The additions of Carvalho and Mourinho's tactics demonstrated Los Blancos' improvements throughout the majority of the game as Madrid's backline played with the sense of purpose that seemed to be missing last year.
Eerily similar to a season ago, Madrid dominated possession and created a plethora of chances only to leave points on the field. Higuain and Ronaldo both took too many touches one-on-one with the keeper as the visitors bombarded the goal, poised to take all three points in the season opener. It wouldn't be as Mallorca held tough thanks to stout defending and some missed chances from the visitors, including a very cheeky back heel volley from the Portuguese international. Creativity is one thing but in the waning minutes of a nil-nil match, Madrid fans must be wondering what he was thinking.
Jose Mourinho tenure as Madrid boss off to a 'not-so-special' start
Canales, Di Maria, Ozil and Khedira made their Madrid debuts at the ONI Estadi, the Germans as substitutes in the 59th and 70th minutes, respectively. Khedira looked to score his first Madrid goal after beating Dudu Aouate to ball in the air; however, the keeper's pressure forced the attempt off target. Aouate was the man of the match, producing a gaggle of fine saves to keep Mallorca on terms with the capital side club.
An opening match draw is nothing to worry about as Mourinho's Madrid is still coming together as a unit; nevertheless, the news Monday that Cristiano will be sidelined up to three weeks is a bit unsettling. Madrid survived an injury spell from the Portugal star last season but with Kaka already out, it is not an ideal start to the campaign. The international break will allow Ronaldo some time to rest with Mourinho hopefully that Ronaldo's ankle will keep him out only the home opener versus Osasuna on the 12th and Madrid's champions league opener against Ajax the following Tuesday.
Trite as it may be, this campaign is a marathon not a sprint. Some Barca faithful may be quick to point to Sunday's result as the reason why the league title will return to the Camp Nou, the improvements already showing underneath 'The Special One's' direction should have the Catalan giants and the rest of Europe a little preoccupied.