Brendan Simpson reporting from the Santiago Bernabeu
La Liga’s Brits abroad, Gareth Bale and David Moyes, are both struggling to integrate to the differing demands of football in Spain. One is under-appreciated and the other is showing a familiar lack of flexibility in his approach to playing bigger teams.
A tough first 45 minutes for the Welshman was topped off by a horrendous open goal miss drawing whistles and boos from the home crowd, after he had taken the ball off the toes of James Rodriguez. Despite the fact that it should have been given as a corner, it was a poor miss and should have finished the game off.
On the touchline Moyes looked on as his side were dismantled by a far superior outfit and him seemingly unable to do anything to counter it. It was more than that though, the Scotsman’s lack of flexibility will have been familiar to any watching Premier League spectators.
Real Sociedad were compact, solid and didn’t look like they were set up to do anything other than attempt to frustrate their more illustrious opponents. They took the lead, however, in the first minute and thoughts would have turned to their famous win over Barcelona earlier this season.
In that game, a Jordi Alba own goal after two minutes gave them a lead and they were able to hold on for the remaining 88 minutes. It was not to be here though and they were completely outplayed by Carlo Ancelotti’s men, who were only behind for a grand total of two minutes before James Rodriguez headed an equaliser.
Familiar Sinking Feeling for Moyes Fans
Once Real Madrid had taken the lead after Sergio Ramos thrashed home a loose ball from close range, little changed in the visitor’s shape and it was as if they were consigned to their fate. Moyes unwilling or unable to adjust his side tactically when faced with an opponent out-playing them.
It is a scenario Everton fans know intimately from his days in charge at Goodison Park, where his record against top four teams was very poor. To a lesser extent, Manchester United fans will know that feeling too; tactically rigid and unimaginative.
Bale Needs More Love
Meanwhile, despite his best efforts, Bale just can’t seem to get the crowd to warm to him. Their perceived view of him as greedy at the Santiago Bernabeu was given ammunition from his first half miss and a first half display that was generally pretty poor.
Even when he picked it up in the second half and set up Karim Benzema for the third goal and releasing Isco behind the defence with a delightful back flick, almost leading to another Benzema goal, there was not much praise for him.
If Bale was feeling a little under pressure before then it was ratcheted up with about ten minutes remaining when he robbed a defender to race clear, but could only shoot straight at the ‘keeper. It was golden opportunity to make the score 5-1, but he fluffed it and the fourth goal would have made things worse.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s suspension meant the Welshman was given a chance through the middle, but if Real Madrid have plans on making him the next CR7, then things aren’t going quite so well – especially when the fourth goal was a thing of immense beauty.
Benzema and Isco played a one-two on the edge of the box in the 76th minute, which teed the ball up beautifully for the Frenchman to curl a stupendous shot into the far top corner. Isco was fantastic throughout the match and he is adored by ‘los Merengues’.
This makes picking Bale more difficult for Ancelotti once Ronaldo’s three-game suspension – picked up for kicking a Cordoba defender the week before – and the Portuguese suyperstar coming nback into the side.
What’s worse about the whole situation is that Bale is really not playing that badly, and although he is prone to some selfishness in front of goal, what striker isn’t? There is some relationship-building for him to do in Spain’s capital, but his performances are still delivering danger.
As for Moyes, he had instilled some solidity at Sociedad and after the start to the season they had, it’s probably exactly what they needed. The problems will come when fans start expecting more.