Madrid dismantled the Champions League debutants Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday night, picking apart Harry Redknapp’s side and very likely ending the London club’s magical run in Europe. There was little doubt who were the superior side at the Bernabeu; however, the visitors put themselves at a numerical disadvantage within the first quarter of an hour, eventually in too dire of straights to recover from. Jose Mourinho’s side, playing in their first European quarterfinals fixture since 2004 (the same year Mr. Mourinho won the competition with Porto, who defeated AS Monanco in the final, the same French side who saw off Madrid in this very stage that year), were methodical, patient and have earned their position in the final four (pending a monumental collapse in the second leg). Barcelona’s destruction of Shakthar Wednesday evening have positioned us to expect a very mouthwatering super clasico two leg semifinal to decide which Spanish side will be represented at Wembley come late May.
It was an ominous start to the night for the visitors in Madrid; Emmanual Adebayor struck on only four minutes after poor marking from Jermaine Jenas left the Togolese striker unmarked in the area. Gomes was able to get his hand on it and Luka Modric a foot but neither were to keep the hosts from taking an early advantage. In the next ten minutes two foolish tackles (in Madrid’s defensive end) from Peter Crouch had Spurs down to ten men. Down a goal and a player, it looked like it could turn very ugly very quickly; however, to the contrary, Spurs finished the half the stronger side. Taken with a grain of salt as Madrid were able to produce their fair share of opportunities; the London side, nonetheless, seemed as if they may strike a very crucial equalizer and away goal (former Madridista Rafael Vaan der Vart missed two golden opportunities and stoic defending from Ricardo Carvalho rectified some mistakes from Pepe).
Entering half time only down a goal, Tottenham would have been very fortunate to escape the Spanish capital with only a goal deficit or even, considering their numbers on the pitch, two; however, it was not meant to be as the hosts have seemingly put the tie to rest after only one leg through three second half goals. Adebayor doubled the hosts advantage within ten minutes of the second half , Angel di Maria's brilliant, unstoppable left footed hit put the game out of hand, while Ronaldo would add insult to injury, putting Tottenham's backs very far against the wall. What a time to be a Spanish football fan with the prospect of three more tournament deciding matches against Barcelona in line for the next month.
As the league is concerned, Mourinho showed his hand Saturday against Gijon. A depleted starting eleven saw the Austurian visitors take the spoils at the Benabeu, all but ending Madrid's quest to retake the Spanish league from rivals and holders Barcelona. Even before Saturday's mess, it was going to be a very uphill battle for Los Blancos. Mourinho has made it clear, and rightfully so, that his priorities lie in Europe. Albeit the Portuguese manager's phenomenal home streak was ended, Madrid have lined up their priorities.
Hats off to the run from the Londoners but they were outdone by a superior side this week. Their defense was stoic, stopping an onslaught of Madrid attack; however, the possession and number of opportunities that Madrid created was only eventually lead to a crooked scoreline. It was Madrid's patience that ultimately was the key to their victory as Spurs, for the most part, held their line and shape very well (even taking Mesut Ozil out of most of the game, the German play maker playing a limited role in Madrid's dominance). Marcelo, as classless as he was in response to Crouch's sending off (you are a professional footballer, act like one), was phenomenal down the left flank as the Brazilian continues to come into his own.
April will be quite an interesting month in the Spanish capital. The league version El Clasico looking less and less important by the day. Consider Madrid's position in the league and the fact that the two Spanish giants will meet three times in the next month to dispute the Copa del Rey champion as well as (again, pending massive collapse on either side) a place in the Champions League Final over two legs, La Liga's standings seem to be an afterthought. Worrisome a bit is the fact that Barcelona have won the last five encounters, dominating at times; however, if there were ever a better time to turn around their fortunes and re-stake their claim as the best team in Spain then that time has arrived.
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