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Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Neither the Real Madrid manager nor the players could have expected Nottingham Forest to actually have the gall to attack Real Madrid this aggressively at the Bernabéu Stadium. They looked intent on going head-to-head with Real Madrid.
Real Madrid was only able to shoot at the goal once in the opening 10 minutes of the game, but the visitors Nottingham Forest was able to shoot at the goal twice in the same time. Their very first shot was the best chance in the game so far, and it nearly went past Casillas.
“Real Madrid has consistently proven something to us over the past decade, and that is that their defense is made up of only one person, and that person is Casillas. As long as Casillas is in the team, all the other defenders can be disregarded.” It is unclear if the commentator is praising Casillas or ridiculing Real Madrid’s defenders with his words.
Real Madrid’s defense did pale in comparison if compared against its star-studded line-up at the front. The star player in their defense is most likely their right back, Sergio Ramos. The performances of Ezequiel Garay and David Luiz have been mediocre thus far, and Marcelo is much stronger offensively than defensively. The best position for him to play in is probably as a left wing-back rather than a left back.
Fortunately for Real Madrid, in addition to Casillas, they now also have Lassana Diarra in their team. The French midfielder has improved Real Madrid’s defense significantly, and his arrival could mark the start of Real Madrid’s journey to glory.
If Diarra’s arrival could not even improve their defense however, it would have been a complete joke for Real Madrid to claim that they want to reign over the whole of Europe, because it would mean that they are in fact a weak team.
This match between Real Madrid and Nottingham Forest is also a battle between two of the world’s most talented defensive midfielders. Unfortunately, the Spanish media was not interested in discussing about such a topic. They were more interested in predicting what sort of exciting performances the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ribéry or Real Madrid’s front three would put in.
As the manager of the team, it is only natural that Míchel thinks differently from the media. After noticing that his team was at a disadvantage in the game, he immediately stood to his feet and walked to the side of the pitch. He then called out to Diarra and gestured for him to intercept the ball more frequently so as to protect their midfield.
Míchel was not afraid of Nottingham Forest going head-to-head against his team. In fact, Forest not going head-to-head against his team would scare him more.
There would be space left behind every time Forest moves forward to attack, and that would be something that Real Madrid could exploit after all.
Offense was certainly the least of Real Madrid’s worries. Míchel was confident that Real Madrid would come out victorious in a battle of goals scored.
Gago tried to put together an attack after he received the ball. His role in the match was to move forward and attack, while Wood was responsible for protecting him.
Diarra ran up to Gago. As a defensive midfielder, Diarra had a good sense of balance, was flexible, had explosive force and was also quick in his movements. There was nothing to pick on regarding his overall physicality either. His only flaw was that he was not very good with headers…
The French defensive midfielder pressurized Gago from the side. He was swift with his movements, and Gago was unable to keep up with him.
Gago eventually lost his balance and gave the ball away!
“A wonderful interception!”
Applause and cheers directed at Diarra rang out from the stands. The Real Madrid fans have grown fond of the lad from France. His presence in the team allows Real Madrid’s superstars at the front to attack fearlessly, and in turn the fans are rewarded with the attacking style of football that they love to see.
The Real Madrid fans are knowledgeable about football. They can boo teams that play defensive or conservative football, but they also capable of commending their defensive midfielder when he performs well.
However, it would seem that they were too quick with their applause and cheers.
Diarra had only just intercepted Gago’s ball when another player came charging into him from the side. The collision nearly caused Diarra to lose the ball at his feet.
The player who charged at him did not give up in his pursuit. It was clear that the player would continue chasing after him till he passed the ball away.
Diarra knew who was on his trail without even looking back.
“George Wood has gone after Diarra! This a direct confrontation between two gifted defensive midfielders! Diarra has done well to maintain possession of the ball. Wood cannot do anything to him for now…”
Diarra certainly possessed good techniques as a defensive midfielder. He is often able to bring the ball past several players all by himself before he passed it to his teammates. He has confidence in his ability to control the ball at his feet.
Being able to maintain possession of the ball is undoubtedly a beneficial skill to have, but it is also his weakness, as he would hold onto the ball much longer than what is expected from a defensive midfielder…
George Wood watched as Diarra carried the ball forward. When he noticed that the ball had been kicked slightly further away from Diarra’s feet, he instantly swooped in and tackled the ball.
Diarra instinctively sensed danger and tried to kick the ball away, but he kicked nothing but air.
The ball had been tackled away by Wood by then, and his kick landed on Wood’s feet instead. He then fell onto the ground.
The referee blew on his whistle to signal that Wood had fouled Diarra during his tackle.
Wood was upset with the referee’s decision, but he did not explain anything to the referee. He simply climbed back to his feet while shaking his head.
Twain saw everything that had happened up front. Wood’s tackle was clean and had not touched Diarra in any way. He was upset with the referee’s decision and kept complaining under his breath, “Home advantage… Home advantage…”
No one cared about his complaints. The fourth official did not even bother to send a glance his way.
It did not matter if Wood had fouled Diarra or not. What was more important was that Nottingham Forest had managed to stop Real Madrid’s quick play. In addition, the events so far have proven that Twain’s analyses of the Real Madrid’s players were accurate.
During the pre-match tactical briefing, Twain analyzed the strengths of each and every Real Madrid player for his team. He told his players that Diarra was a player who liked to bring the ball forward a lot. He did not play like a defensive midfielder would. His actions were more like one that an attacking midfielder or wing-back would do, and that was also something that his team could exploit.
As long as his players marked Diarra tightly, they would definitely find the chance to intercept the ball and go on the counterattack. When that happens, Real Madrid would be sent into a frenzy over how their defensive midfielder had lost the ball!
This time round, both Real Madrid and Diarra were lucky that Wood’s clean tackle had been viewed as a foul by the referee. There did not seem to be anyone associated with Real Madrid who had noticed that the events from earlier was a warning flag yet.
Their luck would definitely not be as good the next time…
Twain ranted for a while by the side of the pitch before he walked back to his seat.
“It’s game over for them.” Twain told Kerslake, who sat before him, as he opened the cap of a bottle.
Real Madrid utilized a 4-4-2 formation for the match. Diarra was the player in charge of defending the midfield. He had to run all over the midfield, and he also had to receive the ball, pass the ball and intercept the ball…
Given all the things that Diarra has to do for his team, he should be the player who is regarded as the core of Real Madrid instead of Ribéry.
Ribéry also plays in the midfield, but he was positioned further up front. Real Madrid’s midfield was shaped like a rhombus. Ribéry’s role in the team was to organize the team’s attacks and make use of his ability to shoot from far to threaten the opponent’s goalpost.
Cristiano Ronaldo was positioned on the left and Higuaín was positioned on the right. The two would switch positions frequently, making it hard for their opponents to keep track. They were two players who possessed pace and technique, and they also had the ability to break through their opponents’ defense.
The two players positioned at the front were Huntelaar and Benzema. Huntelaar was a pure center forward. He would wait for the ball to get passed over to him by his team mates, and he would then try to find a way to get the ball into the back of the opposition’s net.
Benzema, on the other hand, was more flexible with his position on the pitch. He would position himself either next to or behind Huntelaar and act as the bridge between the midfield and the front of the pitch. He was not the kind of striker who needed to score every time he shot either. He was all-rounded as a player, and he could provide chances or assists to his team mates as well.
Such a combination at the front of the pitch was flawless and immensely powerful for any football team. It could even be considered to be a masterpiece.
Sadly, such a wonderful piece of art had to go against the metal slab that is George Wood.
Real Madrid initiated an attack once again. This time, Diarra did not maintain possession of the ball for long. He passed the ball over to Ribéry the moment he noticed Gago charging after him.
Ribéry was able to continue to maintain possession of the ball as he turned his body around. His entire movement looked natural and effortless. The spectators might not have cheered wildly in response to his movements, but it certainly demonstrated the level of technique he possessed as a player of his age.
Twain could not help but shake his head after seeing Ribéry’s actions. Ribéry had transformed from a winger into a playmaker. This was a transformation that did not materialize during his time as a Forest player, but now the transformation was complete at Real Madrid…
Ribéry had only just gotten the ball under control at his feet when Wood charged towards him.
Pepe had threatened him before the start of the match to watch out for him, but sadly, there were not many chances of them going against each other in an actual match. The player that he had to watch out for was not Pepe but the captain of the Forest team instead.
The Frenchman gave up on trying to bring the ball forward by himself the moment he saw Wood charge at him.
It was a wise decision to make as he did not have the confidence to win Wood in a one-on-one battle.
He passed the ball over to Ramos who was running down the flank. Ramos had successfully attracted the attention of Bale, and this allowed Higuaín to speed up and pass the ball into the middle of the pitch without reservations.
Huntelaar jumped into the air to head the ball from Higuaín.
It was Akinfeev’s turn to perform next. He jumped into the air from where he stood and stretched out his right hand. He managed to get a hand on the ball and he sent it over the crossbar. His entire movement might look effortless to the spectators, but professional goalkeepers would know how difficult it really was.
A jump that is made without a run-up would always be slightly shorter than a jump made with a run-up. In addition, Huntelaar’s header had happened very close to the goalpost, and it did not give the goalkeeper much time to react.
The goalkeeper would need to rely on his instincts, split-second reaction and also God to be able to defend against such a shot.
Akinfeev was successful in his attempt to get the ball away. He was able to send what looked like an unmistakable goal from Huntelaar over the crossbar.
Applause rang out at the stands. The Real Madrid fans were all applauding the team’s attack, whereas the Forest fans were all applauding Akinfeev’s incredible save. His save was just as good as one that Casillas would make.
“They are both around the same height, and they have both played as a goalkeeper for roughly the same amount of time. Even their names are similar, Igor and Iker. The battle between Casillas and Akinfeev has not disappointed us. This is truly a match with many things to watch out for!”
In truth, Casillas’ performance had set Akinfeev on fire. He did not want to humiliate himself before his idol.
“It has been a game whereby both sides have attacked one another so far. The football that has been shown in the match up till now can be considered to be brilliant. I’m very pleased that Tony Twain did not choose to play defensive football in such a game. His decision has allowed us to watch an exciting match. But, I’m worried that such a scene would not last for long… The moment Nottingham Forest goes into the lead, they would definitely move backwards and make their defense compact. They would then switch back to playing defensive football. Twain’s strategy is predictable and lacks creativity… I hope that Real Madrid is the team who goes into the lead first so as to maintain excitement throughout the match…”
The commentator was bad-mouthing Twain once again, and that upset several Forest fans.
“Don’t spew nonsense!”
“Shut your damned mouth, bastard!”
The fans who were unable to head over to Spain to watch the match raised their fists before the television screen. Some of them were holding onto their beer mugs, and the beer had spilled over onto others due to their vigorous actions.
However, no one complained. Everyone was busy roaring. It was as though they believed that their chastisements could really reach the commentator on the other end of the screen.
“Hey! Tony! Don’t let that bastard be right!”
“Score a goal against those Spaniards!”
“Go into the lead! It doesn’t matter that they are playing at their home grounds!”
The drunk fans then started cheering for Forest once again. Their mugs were half empty by then, but none of them cared. They could always order more beer when the time comes.
What was more important to them now was that Real Madrid did not go into the lead in the match. They would lose their appetite for beer if that were to happen.
Míchel’s team was hellbent on scoring a goal in the match. 15 minutes had passed, but the score remained 0:0, and it did not look like Nottingham Forest was at a disadvantage either. Such a situation agitated the Real Madrid fans.
The Real Madrid fans have always been like this since the past. Intermittent boos would ring from the stands every time their team fails to score within 20 minutes of the match at the Bernabéu Stadium. Boos would then erupt throughout the stadium if the team fails to score after 30 minutes of the game. Their boos would always add immense pressure on the Real Madrid players.
Twain disliked coaching a football team under such an environment. He could not tolerate how the fans would boo their own players. If he were the manager of Real Madrid, he might point his middle finger at the fans.
However, he enjoyed the boos from the fans right now as the manager of the opposition team. He knew that the Real Madrid fans would become the 12th player for Nottingham Forest. Their intermittent boos would start resonating within the Real Madrid players’ hearts, and they would then start to pile up…
Eventually, one player amidst the Real Madrid team would not be able to hold it in any longer, and he would explode like a time bomb.
His players have been following his tactics dutifully. They have been going all out to intercept the ball, and their actions have helped to create a tense atmosphere on the pitch. This atmosphere has made it difficult for the Real Madrid players to perform at their best. The players have continued to commit one error after another despite their exceptional techniques. The team has not been able to coordinate well in their attacks either.
Forest’s constant interceptions and counterattacks have also forced Real Madrid’s defenders, especially Marcelo and Ramos, to stay at the back of the pitch.
Twain made his players target Marcelo during their attacks. He knew that Marcelo was a player who emphasized offense more than defense. It was also impossible for Míchel to not let Marcelo go on the offense, as it went against his philosophy as a manager.
One of the trademarks of Real Madrid was how they made use of their full backs to attack, and it was also one of their strengths this season.
But, Marcelo was unable to perform at all in the match thus far. He could not move forward to join in the offense, and he committed numerous errors during his defense as well. If it were not for Diarra’s assistance, Forest would have been able to break through Real Madrid’s back line by now.
“Here they come!”
The commentator shouted at the top of his voice.
“Here they come again, f*ck!” Marcelo cursed in his heart.
The combination of Bentley and Rafinha agonized Marcelo immensely. Ronaldo would track back to help Marcelo in defense, but ultimately, Ronaldo was not a defensive player. His main role was to attack.
Marcelo was left with no choice but to retreat backwards when Rafinha ran past him. He then watched as Bentley passed the ball into the middle of the pitch towards Gago instead of Rafinha.
What else could he do?
If he did not retreat backwards, Bentley would have passed the ball over to Rafinha, and Rafinha would have crossed the ball into the penalty box from the byline.
Rafinha stopped his run when he noticed that the ball had been passed into the middle of the pitch. He positioned himself near the byline, and did not appear to have the intention to run forward towards the penalty box.
Marcelo then moved towards the center of the pitch to try and limit the amount of space that Forest could exploit near their penalty box.
Right as he ran however, Gago passed the ball away.
The ball flew over the top of his head towards Rafinha!
Marcelo felt as though he was a monkey being toyed with by the Forest players. He turned around and ran back towards Rafinha.
Rafinha passed the ball over to Bentley. Ronaldo had tracked backwards to join in the defense, and Bentley passed the ball over to Gago through the gap between Ronaldo’s legs.
Diarra stopped being an onlooker. He charged towards Gago to defend against him.
Gago passed the ball over to Wood.
For a period of time, Nottingham Forest continued to pass the ball about before Real Madrid’s penalty box, and the Real Madrid players did not even manage to touch the ball once.
It was a massive humiliation for Real Madrid.
The boos from the stands grew in decibels.
Diarra left Gago behind for Wood once Wood received the ball.
It was difficult to play as a defensive midfielder. Diarra has to run all over the pitch non-stop. He has to run from one end to another end, and he would often end up defending against one thing and missing another…
Wood turned around and passed the ball over to Bale who had run up from the back.
Bale did not bring the ball forward down the flank. Instead, he made his way past Higuaín and moved towards the middle of the pitch!
Bale’s actions caught Ramos off guard. Ramos was initially going to wait for Bale to run up towards him from the flank, but he did not expect Bale to change route midway.
However, Ramos could not run over to defend Bale, because Fernández had moved forward and was positioned near the byline where he was currently standing. Ramos was afraid that the ball would be passed over to Fernández the moment he ran over to Bale.
Ribéry retreated backwards to defend and he charged towards Bale in the middle of the pitch.
Bale did not even turn to see who was charging towards him. He simply passed the ball over to Wood beside him and continued running forward.
Wood did not stop the ball at his feet after receiving the ball. He passed the ball back to Bale straight away.
The two players performed a quick one-two right before Real Madrid’s penalty box!
Ramos could not stay and guard the flank any longer, because Bale had nearly made his way into the penalty box. He left Fernández behind and charged towards the penalty box. He was going to team up with Garay and they were going to work together to keep Bale away from their penalty box.
Bale, who had been sprinting towards the penalty box, slammed into Ramos and fell to the ground inside Real Madrid’s penalty box.
Fernández raised his hand to gesture at the referee that Ramos had fouled Bale. It would be a penalty if the referee deemed Ramo’s actions to be a foul.
However, the referee did not give the foul, because he did not notice that Ramos had obstructed the path of Bale. Instead, the referee placed both arms before him to signal for play to resume. He was giving advantage to the attacking team, and the match will go on!
Bale had already passed the ball away before he collided with Ramos.
Mitchell was positioned in Real Madrid’s penalty box, and Şahin had also made his way over as well.
Who did Bale pass the ball to?
Wood raised his muscular right leg at the edge of the penalty box right as the commentator hollered.
Casillas reacted the moment he saw Wood raise his leg. He pounced towards the right side of his goalpost. His intuition and experience told him that Wood would shoot for goal straight away, and that he would shoot this way!
He was right!
Wood had shot for goal straight away without stopping the ball at his feet!
There was not any spin on the ball as it flew straight towards Casillas.
Wood’s shot was so quick it even created a sound as it whizzed by…
No, perhaps that was a sound made by the Real Madrid fans during their booing.
Wood’s shot travelled very quickly, and Casillas was still a little too slow in reaching the ball.
The ball would fly past before Casillas hand can reach it.
Wood’s shot slammed against the goalpost and made a loud thud.
The sound allowed the jittery Real Madrid fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
But, a dramatic turn of events soon ensued…
The ball deflected backwards towards Casillas after hitting the goalpost. Casillas had only just managed to reach the ball at this moment. The ball then hit against Casillas’ back as he landed, before flying past the goal line and into the back of the net…
“Unlucky Iker…” The on-site commentator cried out as he sprawled over his work desk.
Nottingham Forest has managed to find their way into Real Madrid’s goalpost at the Bernabéu Stadium on the 23rd minute of the match! And, the person who had scored the goal was…
The player regarded as Real Madrid’s most resolute rampart, Saint Iker Casillas!
However, the commentator from England did not agree with the view that it was Casillas who scored the goal. “Own goal? No no no! That was a goal by George Wood! What a brilliant goal! How can that be considered as a goal by Casillas? George Wood has scored his second goal in the Champions League this season! His goal has helped Nottingham Forest take the lead over Real Madrid for the time being! You have to remember that this is the Bernabéu Stadium, and this is the home grounds of Real Madrid! How remarkable! The combination play leading up to the goal has left Real Madrid in a complete frenzy! Listen to the boos at the stadium! Those boos are the best form of compliment to Forest!”
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