Match Recap: Champions League – Real Madrid v FC Basel

17 Sep

Photo 1Well, it’s that time. It’s time for us to defend our coveted championship. We earned good old Big Ears in a big way. Can we do it again? Can we make it La Undecima and become the first club in the Champions League era (AC Milan did it in 88-89/89-90 before it was in this format) to win back to back Champions League trophies? I sure as hell hope so. And so does everyone in the Real Madrid universe.

For our first match of the new UEFA campaign, we played FC Basel at home in the Bernabeu. Here’s how the teams lined up:Real Madrid CF v FC Basel 1893 - UEFA Champions LeagueReal Madrid: Iker Casillas; Marcelo, Nacho, Sergio Ramos, Pepe; Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez; Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema.

FC Basel: Tomas Vaclik; Fabian Schar, Walter Samuel, Marek Suchy, Behrang Safari; Fabian Frei, Mohamad Elneny, Tualant Xhaka, Luca Zuffi; Marco Streller, Derlis Gonzalez.

The starters got in their pre-match warm ups. And I promised Lozil I would start trying to chill on the gifs, but I can’t deny you the opportunity to see all the cheekbones (and Luka looking confused).

In the tunnel, Pepe was adorable with the mascots. He made sure to give each of them a high ten. And Sergio didn’t neglect Iker and their pre-match besos.The first half kicked off and we dominated from the beginning. We looked good, but we’d looked good at the beginning of the past two matches as well so I tried to be cautiously positive.

Our first shot on goal came in the 3rd minute when Cristiano took a shot from outside of the box but it was blocked. Then Modric took his own shot shortly after, but the shot was high.

Basel had a shot in the 4th minute that Iker had to save in the top left corner. We countered well and Marcelo crossed it in toward Cristiano. CR7 pulled the high cross back but his shot was high. Shortly after, our defense gave me a heart attack waiting for Iker to pick it up. Seemed to be a bit of a miscommunication and Iker hesitated in coming out for it.

Toni Kroos, who is challenging Lucky Luka for “Most Likely To Be Confused”, won a freekick on the left. Then, within a minute, James played a nifty backheel pass to Nacho making the run. Nacho took the shot. It deflected off Suchy and into the net for our first goal of the evening. It was officially given as an own goal against Suchy but, on behalf of HB&HB, I’m giving it to Nacho.

Basel got right to work and attempted to get the goal back when Xhaka crossed into Strellar in the center of the box. His shot was close (too close) but it went just wide.

Kroos, who found himself offside in the 17th minute, earned another free kick in the 19th minute when he was fouled by Gonzalez. Our next clear attempt on goal came, however, when Marcelo made a great run down the left and crossed in to Cristiano. But the Tan One’s shot was blocked.

At 25’ Modric hit a scorcher from outside the box that was blocked by the keeper, earning us a corner kick. We are, however, kind of crap at defending corners and kind of crap at taking corners.

Then in the 28th minute, Marcelo played a beauty of a cross into Benzema’s head. The header was blocked by the keeper. Benz just can’t catch a break! I’m so frustrated for him. I can’t imagine how he feels!

But barely a minute later, Gareth was played in by Modric. He touched the ball over the keeper and finished by sprinting past him and touching it into the net with the outside of his left foot. Lovely, lovely goal. And holy shit I love his speed!

With barely any time to think (my stream froze and I actually missed it), Basel had reset but we had taken off again. This time Bale’s speed took him down the right wing. He played a low cross across the face of the goal to Cristiano Ronaldo, the only man on the pitch that can keep up with him. Cris one-touched it simply into the net with his right foot.

He definitely recognized who the pass came from as he celebrated his goal and the smart cross from Gareth.

James is so jealous of Gareth, bless. Look at him. What do you think he secretly whispered in Gareth’s ear? All I can hear is “I wants it, precious. Nasty hobbitses.” I don’t even know why.

After that goal we started looking lazy and I started getting worried. Sure, we were up 3-0, but this team has been so unpredictable lately. At 34’ Bale found himself offside then Karim took a shot but it was saved.

At almost the 36th minute mark we got our 4th goal! James did exactly what you’re supposed to do. You follow a shot! Cristiano made his way down the right with the ball and cut it back. He then sent his pass to Benz in the middle. Benz’s shot took a deflection off a sliding Basel defender, forcing Vaclik to make a save by diving virtually backward and pushing it away from the goal. Unfortunately for them, Basel’s defense didn’t notice James screaming in from the left to slam the rebound into the net from close range.

Less than a minute later, at 37:13, we conceded. SERIOUSLY?! Derlis Gonzalez played a nice one-two with Luca Zuffi and completely blew past our defense. None of our defenders were anywhere. Sergio was up covering Zuffi and no one paid any attention to Gonzalez. If zonal marking is what we’re doing, I need our defenders to figure out their fucking zones!


In reality, I have to begrudgingly admit that it was a well-played counter attack for the goal. I’ve seen us do that many times. I won’t deny the beauty of it for other teams as well.

In the 43rd minute play stopped due to an injury to Strellar. James unintentionally clattered into his thigh. It looked like Strellar had a dead leg or charley horse. NOT fun.

The last action of the half was a shot from Gonzalez that went too high. We ended the match at 4-1 and despite our lead, I had a lot of questions. Could we clean it up in the second half?

Second Half:

The stream I was using didn’t cut to a half-time analysis, so I had the joy of watching an empty pitch and listening to the Bernabeu’s PA system music. I heard “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits and had to message Lozil. During the Clasico in March, as we sat there, I swear that was the song that was annoying her the most. I wonder if the person that picks the music understands the lyrics to it. It’s pretty fucking homophobic. I wonder who I need to talk to about these things?

Moving on…

Cris and Lucky Luka had a quick discussion before the start. I see Luka has picked up the secret handshake/fist bump. At least it’s not the turkey.
Basel’s first order of business was to take a whack at Gareth. He was chopped from behind by Samuel, which earned us a freekick. But Basel pushed forward. Zuffi took a left footed shot at 50’ that forced Iker to save it in the bottom corner.

Mohamad Elneny received the first yellow card of the match when he pulled James down from behind. The card came shortly after he got away with hauling Modric down in the center of the pitch. The resulting free kick was taken by Cris but it hit the wall.

In the 57th minute, after an excellent first touch, Benz took a shot that was easily saved by keeper. It was beginning to feel like we were breaking down. I was growing more and more agitated.

The second yellow card of the game came when Walter Samuel brought Marcelo down just outside the box. The free kick was taken by Sergio, which had me going “What?!” He skied it pretty badly, like it was a penalty kick. I kid! I kid! I love our Pony and if we can’t make fun of him, then who can?

Basel was the first to make a substitution, replacing Samuel with Kakitani. And with almost his first touch of the ball, Kakitani took a shot that was blocked.

Ancelotti’s first substitution came in the form of Varane for Ramos. I admit to questioning the decision, as I’ve always thought that Varane works better with Ramos than he does with Pepe. In fact, I personally think Varane works better in our central defense in general. But he immediately made an error that left my eyes wide. He headed the ball back without knowing where Iker was. The error allowed Gonzalez to take a shot and forced Iker to make a good save, putting the ball out for a Basel corner.Basel had a successive number of chances but when we finally made our way back to our attacking end, Bale ended up with the ball and only the keeper to beat after a brilliant through ball by James. Unfortunately, Vaclik refused to be beat this time.

Basel replaced Strellar in the 72nd minute, bringing in Breel Embolo. And in the 73rd minute, Illaramendi got his chance when he replaced Modric. I’m not entirely sure why, but Illara was a site for sore eyes for me right then. Maybe it’s his Basque-ness. I love it.

Sometime after being substituted, Sergio graced us with his naked torso but forced us to look at those awful tattoos.
Benzema FINALLY got his goal at 79’ and boy did he need it! Cris played a backheel to Benz, who played it back to Cris, who played BACK to Benz. Then my favorite duckfacer smashed it with his left foot into the top of the goal. I hope this opens the floodgates for many more Benzema goals!

Our final substitution was made in the 81st minute when Benzema made way for Chicharito. And two minutes later Basel’s final substitution was made. Delgado came on for Frei.

Pepe earned Real Madrid’s first yellow card of the game in minute 84. Yes, you read that correctly. Real Madrid made it to the 84th minute of a Champions League match without a card. Small victories, people!

In almost the 89th, Nacho decided he wanted a brace and attempted a long range shot that skipped to the left of the goal. Then Xhaka earned the match’s final booking with a yellow card in the 90th minute.

And that was it. We won our first match of the 2014-15 Champions League campaign 5-1 over FC Basel. And Iker gave away his boots. Am I the only one that finds this really gross?
Here are some match pics:

Man Edith was deservedly voted today’s Man of the Match and had this to say in his post match interview:

Photo 54
“I feel good. It was important for us to start well in Champions League, especially to play well and get a good result after that disappointing result against Atletico.”
“It was important to start well, to win the game, to score goals, to get confidence back that we maybe lost a little bit. But there’s no reason to lose confidence. We played well, especially in the first half an hour tonight and we need to build on this and continue to grow in the next games.”

On lifting the trophy again
“Of course. It’s a long way to go but we need to go game by game and we’ll see. There is no team that has won two in a row. Hopefully we can be the first team but we need to go game by game, be humble and play every game with a big attitude. That’s the only way to play as a team. We can go far, hopefully to win again, but it’s a long way to go and we need to go game by game.”

Other post-match comments:

Photo 55
“I think the fans will be happy with today’s match. The team played well, we scored a lot of goals and tried to play as well as we could. The Bernabeu was content after that performance. We have to be positive. I don’t hear the booing, but when the supporters sing ‘How can I not love you’ of course I hear that. I want to live positively.”

“The team’s reaction today was good. We played with intensity, we pressured them high up the pitch and moved quickly up front. Obviously not all the problems have been solved, but I liked the team’s reaction.”

The attacking players’ positions
“Cristiano has freedom to move where he likes. The three players up front have freedom and often interchange between themselves. It is not a problem. I don’t know if Benzema needed to score, I don’t think so. It is important for a striker to score and he got a cracker. The forward men played really well. As did James, who was alert and had a great attitude.”

“Switching the wingers is better for finding a way through. Playing Cristiano on the right and Bale on the left allowed us to cross the ball more often. That is the theory, but then it has to be put into practice. And in practice Bale scored a goal that was set up with a Modric pass from deep. By theorizing we could talk all night.”
“He is a Real Madrid player, he is young and we need him. If he is going through a difficult time, we will help him. I always say that we have Ramos and Pepe, who are two of the best defenders in the world.”

“everyone gets nervous, including the players. It’s normal. When you lose the derby it is normal to be nervous. I am not used to losing two games on the bounce with Real Madrid. It is good not to get used to that.”

“He held his position well on the pitch and had a good game. We have an extremely attack-minded team. With this system he was able to press higher up the pitch from time to time. He can play in that position because he is intelligent, tactically sound and can control the ball well.”

Next opponent
“We will have the same idea in mind against Ludogorets, and will be looking to win. The important thing is to start well in the group. To finish top of the group it is important to start strongly. We have a lot of respect for them – they almost drew against Liverpool – but we will be looking to win.”

Karim Benzema:
Spain Soccer Champions League
“I’m very happy that I scored, but the win was the most important thing. I think it was a really good match, and with a lot of goals too. It has been a slightly difficult week, but getting the win and scoring five goals stands us in good stead.”

“We’ve made a very good start to the Champions League. First match, first victory and it was important to win at home. This victory is good for everyone. Scoring is important, but playing with my teammates is more important.”

James Rodriguez:
Real Madrid CF v FC Basel 1893 - UEFA Champions League“I had a good game. Everything came off for us and as a team we did everything well. We hope to continue playing like this and keep scoring goals. This match will give us confidence for what’s ahead.”

“I also had a good game against Atlético but I think I was better today. I think Cristiano Ronaldo and I have always had a good relationship, we always talk to one another and he’s a great person. As for the group, we are mentally strong.”

Photo 58“It was an important day for us and it could not have gone any better. I think we maintained a good tempo throughout the match and played it how we wanted to. I am delighted and also for the goal, which was helped into the net. It was a nice bit of play with James and it ended the best way possible.”

“I try to make the most of all the opportunities the manager gives me. I work hard day after day to earn my place. The fans can do what they like, we players concentrate on playing. The players and the supporters need to be united and I’m sure that bit by bit we will be.”

And finally…

Illaramendi celebrated tonight’s win by opening his official Twitter account. He posted in Spanish and English. I do love this little Basque drink of water (in my head that was in Morgan Freeman’s voice).

¡Hala Madrid!


One Response to “Match Recap: Champions League – Real Madrid v FC Basel”

  1. @ulonghaz September 17, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    Thanks for the recap since I missed the match.

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