“It wasn’t a match where Real Madrid played particularly badly or where Valencia were especially good,” Tim Stannard writes in a recent football365 post, perfidiously titled Are Real Madrid Merely Big Bullies?, adding “Instead, it was a thrilling tactical battle that ended up as a stalemate.” The quote alone should serve to render the title moot, if not downright silly.
I’m not sure why people are still, with so many examples on offer this season, somehow surprised to learn that the other teams in La Liga are actually quite good. Not even accounting for Barcelona, everyone-who-has-never-watched-soccer’s favorite team, Valencia, Málaga, and even Bilbao have all made headlines this season by not only winning against tough opponents, but also doing so in very entertaining and exquisite fashion. I mean, for the love of Pete, how many times must Bilbao beat United to get some respect?
Real Madrid, for its part, may have fallen victim to the complacency that comes with their sybaritic—if not arrogantly decadent—recent history, and, it must be pointed out, a rather comfortable cushion in the league table.
Sure, that lead has been chipped away by a hungry Barcelona side. But let’s not go nuts. Barcelona is, on any given night, the best club team in the world, and Madrid didn’t even lose against Valencia, a team one point away from third in the table. A very entertaining draw with one of the better teams in one of the better leagues does not, in my estimation, constitute some kind of alarm bell.
Stannard argues: “As the column pointed out last week, it’s all very well scoring 100 goals against the likes of Zaragoza and Osasuna, but it’s no great shakes if the same trick can’t be repeated against Málaga and Valencia who are organised and competent.”
Was Stannard watching the same game I was? Madrid hit the woodwork several times (as did Valencia), and, while getting absolutely no fortuitous bounces, still came away with a point. Yes, it’s a disappointing point, but teams are going to slump at times, and let’s not forget that Madrid is still master of its own fate.
Every loss (or in this case, tie) is not necessarily recompense for some categorical sin. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce one’s way.