Monday, May 05, 2008

La Liga ramblings from a Real Madrid fan (Vol. 4)

Down a man and a goal, Real Madrid stormed back to claim their 31st La Liga title on Sunday. Osasuna went up 1-nil following Francisco Punal's penalty. It resulted from one of the many questionable refereeing decisions on display in this match.
Even though Real Madrid fell behind and saw a mystery 2nd yellow card that resulted in the sending off of Fabio Cannavaro in the 46th minute, manager Bernd Schuster might just be claiming the the title of "The Special One" from the currently inactive Jose Mourinho. On more than one occasion this season, Schuster has made a substitution at the perfect time. A few weeks ago, he inserted Robinho and Gonzalo Higuain (pictured above) late in a match only to see Higuain's first touch lead to a perfect pass that resulted in Robinho burying the ball in the back of the net.
On the ropes against Osasuna, Schuster pulled the strings perfectly again. After Arjen Robben found the net with a brilliant header for an equalizer, late substitute Higuain buried an 89th-minute rocket into the back of the net to assure Los Blancos the 2007-08 trophy. Unlike last season's heavy-handed moves by Real Madrid boss Fabio Capello that allowed Sevilla and Barcelona to hang on in the championship race until the final week, Schuster seems to have a solid understanding of his players. He gets where they fit into the puzzle and knows when to coach and when to let the players play. It's been brilliant in what could have easily been considered a rebuilding year.
Wednesday's match against Barcelona has now turned into a spoiler's role for Real Madrid, who can kick Barca when they're down. Villarreal are in 2nd place, and Barca desperately need points to secure an automatic qualifying place for next season's Champions League.