Real Madrid 3-0 Olympique Marseille: Ronaldo And Kaka Keep The Big White Machine Rolling
A key turning point was reached in the second half to condemn OM to defeat.
A 20 minute spell after the half-time break ensured Real Madrid defeated Olympique Marseille in Champions LeagueGroup C. During that period, the Spanish team ensured their opponents were dead and buried with a quick-fire trio of goals, which combined with a red card for one of OM’s hitherto stand-out performers on the night, Souleymane Diawara, to condemn Didier Deschamps’ side to their second defeat of the stage.
Pepe provided for his Portugal team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo with a direct pass over the top as Marseille pushed out; Steve Mandanda was stranded and hapless in no-man’s land as Ronaldo had all the time in the world to roll the ball home from inside the box to open the scoring on 58 minutes.
Moments later and the world’s most expensive footballer was upended sturdily in the area by Diawara, who received a second booking, and Kaka despatched the penalty kick to make the Bernabeu purr.
Then, against a reduced opponent, Madrid emphasised their superiority; Sixty-four minutes had elapsed when Sergio Ramos and Kaka combined neatly to slip in Karim Benzema on the right side of the box; he stroked the ball across the face of goal to give ‘CR9’ a tap-in.
Until the game’s first goal, Madrid had it far from their own way; a cagey opening to the game was eventually pierced on seven minutes by the guests; Benoit Cheyrou fired over from range to little avail and that set the tone for the first half.
Both sides were reduced to half chances from distance, save for a pair of genuine opportunities apiece for Benzema and Marseille’s Mamadou Niang.
The Senegalese striker Niang sprung Casillas into action after the 20 minute mark; he eluded Pepe and found himself one-on-one with ‘San Iker’ but couldn’t convert from a tight angle. He had earlier sent the hosts a warning with his sprightly movement but Casillas was quick from him line to block on that occasion.
Los Merengues, after initial unease, gradually gained a foothold with Xabi Alonso specifically revelling in his tackling and passing duties; Kaka, inside the area, forced a spill from Mandanda, but Benzema could not capitalise. The captain Guti then released Ronaldo as OM stepped up their defensive line. The French international goalkeeper snuffed the danger swiftly with an interception.
Ronaldo then engaged the stopper in a personal duel, testing him twice from range as the half progressed, but Mandanda was equal to the tasks.
There remained the threat at the other end though and Madrid’s familiar failings of set-piece defending threatened to breach their line. On this occasion however, Niang could not connect with a right-sided delivery. Before the end of the half, he would ask another question of Casillas, to which the Spain captain had the answer.
Madrid struggled to make all their attacking components function throughout the opening period, but Benzema in particular shouldered the burden of responsibility; an overhead volley, emanating from a neat Guti chip, flew too high after 35 minutes and the former Lyon man should have put one over on his old rivals when Kaka’s deft flick put him in front of goal. Again, Mandanda shut him out when he should have broken the dead-lock.
Madrid, by the time Ronaldo exited due to precautionary measures with 25 minutes to go, were out of sight and were content to as good as play out time; Gonzalo Higuain, straight off the bench, threatened a fourth but could not put his shot on target. The same player bundled wide with 12 minutes to play following a neat dribble and assist from the unassuming, but effective, Benzema.
Marseille, although quelled comprehensively, remained spirited until the end. The substitutes Brandao and Hatem Ben Arfa came close to sullying the clean sheet for the hosts, but Casillas was alert to the last.