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Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
”A series of beautiful combination through the middle with a continuous one-two! George Wood’s——powerful volley! The ball hit the bottom of the crossbar, flew downwards and hit Casillas on the back and bounced into the goal… Nottingham Forest takes the lead in the Bernabéu Stadium just like this!”
“The captions indicated that this is an own goal by Casillas, but we have to give credit to George Wood for his impressive contributions to this attack. It was his long shot that caught Casillas off-guard… In fact, after the ball went in, the Forest players surrounded Wood to congratulate him.”
George Wood was indeed in the middle of his teammates’ embrace. The match would be much easier now that they were able to score first. That was why they did not care whether this was an own goal, the important thing was that they are leading Real Madrid 1:0.
Waves of jeering rang out from the stands. One could not tell whether these jeers were directed at the Nottingham Forest players or at Real Madrid for conceding a goal.
Poor Casillas had to pick himself up, turn around to retrieve the ball from his goal and kick it towards the center circle, mumbling as he did so. He must have been complaining about his bad luck for the ball to bounce out when he dived and for the ball to coincidentally hit him, then changed direction and flew into the goal after that…
He did not even know why that happened. When he was performing admirably in front of goal, saving shots that was impossible to be saved, the fans referred to him as “Saint Iker” and it was as if he was possessed by God. But at this moment, both the God and the Holy Light had left him.
It was a good thing that he was a goalkeeper as goalkeepers usually had very strong mentality. He shut his mouth after grumbling for a little and did not mention this matter anymore.
Michels was a little unhappy about the fact that Real Madrid conceded the first goal. After watching the goal go in, he jumped out of his seat and could not stop complaining while waving his arms. He was complaining about the problem in Real Madrid’s defense in the middle, and also their rotten luck…
The Nottingham Forest players were still celebrating the goal, ignoring the thunderous jeers while Michels pulled Ribéry to the sideline and instructed him about the things that he had to pay attention to in the match later.
“…They’ll play on the break after taking the lead, their defensive line will drop back, we have to press up in attack.”
Ribéry nodded in agreement. He did not have any opinions actually; he would follow whatever the manager said.
“Be more committed when attacking, if you lack support from your teammates around you, take a long shot!” Michels pointed at the Forest goal as he said, “George Wood is marking you; you can pull him away from the middle and tell Lassana to go forward more.”
Ribéry understood that he was to be the distraction then. Diarra’s attacking prowess was pretty strong too, with good passing and dribbling abilities.
“They know how to suppress our flanks; we shall do the same. Suppress their flanks and force their flanks to be on the defensive. Tell Ronaldo and Higuain to be more committed, don’t be hesitate, if they want to dribble, do so! Go!”
Ribéry went after receiving the instructions.
Twain sneered as he watched Michels pull Ribéry back alone to adjust his tactics. This kid had become a core member of Real Madrid, he was doing quite well for himself.
“If we look at it from another angle, it might be a good thing to concede after 23 minutes. At least Real Madrid has 67 minutes to comeback and win the game.”
The match restarted as the trailing Real Madrid launched waves of vicious attacks on the Forest team. Their momentum forced Nottingham Forest to pull back their defensive line and go into the defensive.
The commentator was a little pleased with himself as what he said earlier came true, “I said that if Nottingham Forest were to take the lead, they would play on the counter. I wasn’t wrong, Tony Twain has pulled back as expected. The excitement of the match next depends on when Real Madrid can penetrate the Forest goal…”
Ribéry became the focal point of Real Madrid’s attack. He was in charge of starting the attack, and he would also take some long shots to test Akinfeev’s focus on the match once in a while.
Pepe was abnormally excited today. There were a few times when Wood had already closed in on Ribéry and yet he still rushed forward to mark the same target.
Twain simply took it as a demonstration of Pepe’s excitement and did not put it to mind. After all, the pincer defense of him and Wood did make Ribéry a little flustered and made it difficult for him to start the attack.
Until the 31st minute, when Pepe brought Ribéry to the ground just outside the penalty area and the referee awarded a direct free kick to Real Madrid, Twain then slapped his thigh and complained, “Is he trying to break Ribéry’s leg? That bastard! He needs to watch what he’s doing!”
He received a yellow card because of this foul. That was a tackle from behind, bringing Ribéry, who was guarding the ball down.
The Real Madrid fans directed their jeers at Pepe while Ribéry held onto his ankle in pain on the ground. Michels stood up to denounce the violence of the Forest team furiously whereas Twain only scolded Pepe in private without any other actions.
Ribéry eventually picked himself up and walked around with a slight limp. He did not glare at Pepe like the other players, moving to one side instead.
Pepe did not let him off easily as he continued to glare at him.
Bale pulled his arm from the side and said, “Relax, Pepe!”
“I just don’t like the look of him,” Pepe said as he stared at Ribéry with a fierce look in his eyes.
“Look at where you committed the foul,” Wood walked over and said to Pepe with a stern look on his face.
Pepe took a look at it and pouted.
He committed the foul just outside the penalty area.
“It’s nothing, this is too close, it’s not a good distance for a free kick,” it appeared as though he made sense too.
“It better be so,” Wood turned to stand in the wall with no emotions on his face.
There were many people who thought the same way as Pepe. The Forest players all thought that this was too close to the goal and was not a good position for a free kick.
The commentator thought so too, “18 meters from the goal… This is too close, the ball would either hit the wall or fly over the crossbar.”
Cristiano Ronaldo stood over the ball. It seemed like he would be the one to take this free kick.
Ronaldo was adept at taking long distance free kicks, this seemed to confirm the everybody’s thoughts.
Pepe’s foul might seem dangerous, but it might in fact be the safest move?
The Real Madrid players did not attempt to squeeze into the Nottingham Forest wall, as though they did not have high hopes for this free kick too.
Aaron Mitchell had wanted to stay in the frontline to prepare to launch a counterattack, but he got asked to stand in the wall by Wood. His 2.2 meters frame was an eyesore in the wall. Wood arranged for him to stand at the most dangerous spot, blocking the far corner of the goal which was furthest away from Akinfeev.
When the wall was ready, the referee indicated that Real Madrid can restart the game.
Ronaldo stood in front of the ball, feet apart. He took a deep breath and started his run up.
His run up was quite long and everyone thought it would be a fierce shot, hoping that it would penetrate the Forest wall. However, when he reached the ball, he lifted it with the tip of his foot!
The calf moved rapidly but the thigh did not move much.
The ball flew above the wall and it did not go towards the far post, going to the near post instead!
Akinfeev did not expect Ronaldo to take the free kick like this at all. He originally chose to dive towards the far post and the center of gravity of his body had already moved towards that side before he realized that the ball was flying towards the near post. He wanted to readjust his position but he was already wrongfooted as he could only stand on the spot and watch the ball fly just above the wall and straight into the goal.
Akinfeev momentarily lost his balance and all his strength as he fell backwards into the goal, as if he got hit by the ball.
Pepe stared at the ball inside the goal in disbelief too. Behind him, the Real Madrid players were celebrating.
“Damn it” Twain cursed on the sideline.
Michels ran back to the manager’s seat in excitement as he embraced his assistants.
“Ronaldo scored with a direct free kick!” The commentator roared in excitement. This time, he was really feeling happy for the goal scored by Real Madrid——Nottingham Forest could no longer play on the break, this match would be even more exciting now!
Twain would have definitely felt wronged if he knew what the commentator was thinking of. That was because he had no intentions of playing on the counter after leading…
“A beautiful direct free kick! This was actually not an especially good chance of scoring, but Ronaldo’s unique free kick’s arc still flew over the wall and into the goal! Akinfeev was totally bamboozled as he did not react at all!”
The Bernabéu stands finally erupted in cheers this time. The long-awaited moment for the fans in white to hold their heads up high had finally arrived.
“Twain was still rambling on, “This kind of goal… This kind of foul… And he even got a yellow card! I really don’t understand the benefits of that foul!”
Eastwood could only give a wry smile at the side. He believed he knew why. There were some things that would only be spoken amongst the players. No matter how close the boss was to them, or how high the players held him in regard, he would not be able to understand all the thinking of every player.
For example, Pepe had mentioned not just once that he looked down on Ribéry in the changing room privately. The reason why he looked down on him was not because Ribéry moved to Real Madrid for money, Pepe was no saint, he understood that the reason for playing professional football was to earn money. The reason why he looked down on Ribéry was because he chose to leave the team when the boss and the team were in a difficult moment. He had always been looking for an opportunity to get back at Ribéry and this final finally gave him the best opportunity.
Real Madrid seemed to be even more fired up after levelling the score. The two flanks completely woke up and suppressed any signs of a counterattack from the Forest team. Under the waves of cheers in their home ground, of which each wave was louder than the previous one, they launched attacks on the Forest goal continuously. There were times when they managed to reach the goal of the Forest team, making things very awkward for the Forest defenders.
Twain left the manager’s seat after Real Madrid scored. He stood on the sideline, making different kinds of body language as the situation changed on the field. When Real Madrid was getting close to the goal, he would clench his fist, straighten his back and leaned forward, as if all the muscles in his body were tensed up. When Forest had the ball and countered, he folded his arms and gave his team the feeling that their manager had everything under control, having the effect of stabilizing his team’s morale.
The tv broadcast also kept going towards Twain. Sometimes, his performance on the sideline was really a better show than the match.
Actually, Twain did not do that to hog the limelight on TV, he was just nervous…
No matter how much he acted as though he was unaffected, arrogant… He could not deny the fact that Real Madrid had a big advantage playing at the Bernabéu stadium. This kind of advantage might sometimes be decisive in a final, that was why he had to handle it carefully. Scoring first was a good sign as it reduced the pressure, but he did not expect Real Madrid to level the score within 10 minutes. Now, Real Madrid’s morale was high, and Forest had just been dealt a blow. Under such circumstances, if he was not careful, the situation on the field might be overturned.
Now that Forest was doing their best to not let Real Madrid overrun them, George Wood was once again the star that shone the brightest in the team. His tireless running, vicious yet clean defense, aided the team to barely stay level with Real Madrid.
In the eyes of most of the outsiders, Real Madrid had the advantages. Especially when coupled with the home ground atmosphere, it gave people a feeling that Real Madrid could penetrate the Forest goal at any time. Real Madrid’s combinations were pleasing to the eye, as though they could receive any kind of passes, and there were many different kinds of attacking plays they could pull off. On the other hand, Nottingham Forest found things to be a little difficult. After Şahin was restricted by Diarra, the Forest midfield became a pure workhorse midfield. Their functions were not to start the attack and link the backline with the frontline, but they were to think of ways to destroy Real Madrid’s attack… When there was only destruction without any creation, how would that be good enough?
Evan Doughty’s expression became darker and darker as he watched from the VIP box. He only smiled when Forest scored, and he watched the match with a long face after that. The match became even worse after Real Madrid levelled the score… By his side, Florentino watched the whole game with a smile on his face. He did not even frown when Forest was leading.
He was an old and crafty person indeed. His culture and shrewdness were some things that Evan Doughty could not be a match for.
When the first half ended, the score was still 1:1. Even though Real Madrid had the advantage, they could not penetrate the Forest goal again as the Forest defense system passed the test. Twain was not concerned about his own defense; he was concerned about spending too much energy on defense that his offense would be stunted. The key to this match was no longer defense, but attack…
Twain entered the tunnel first, thinking about ways to salvage the situation in the second half.
The commentator felt pity for Real Madrid, “I bet, if the first half was five minutes longer, Real Madrid would penetrate the Forest goal again… Or have the initiative of the game completely. This is the Bernabéu after all, it’s their home ground. This halftime break saved Twain. We can look forward to the adjustments that Tony Twain will make during halftime.”
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