Real’s defensive shakes, and just how do you define “offside”?


On Saturday night, Real Madrid went to Vallekas to take on lowly Rayo Vallecano. The billionaire blancos won 3-2 in the end, but that doesn’t nearly give the full account of the match. The bottom of the table team had Real on the ropes for the majority of the match, while even the return of Xabi Alonso to the starting line up couldn’t give Real Madrid the force in midfield to deal with the famously good at keeping possession Franjiroja.

Jonathan Viera skips past Madrid's Sergio Ramos

Jonathan Viera skips past Madrid’s Sergio Ramos

One thing that the course of this game left me wondering is do Real Madrid have a defence good enough to win the Champions League? Obviously that’s the goal, Carlo Ancelotti’s team are obsessed with winning their tenth European crown. Rayo Vallecano don’t have any real cutting edge to their play and are lacking a striker to put the ball in the back of the net. Yet plenty of times, Paco Jemez’s men were able to break the Real breeches and create a goalscoring opportunity.

Real Madrid were terribly lucky in Vallekas. Had Rayo that forward man capable of finishing a chance, they would have converted one of their many chances. The home team had 23 shots in the 90 minutes, 17 of which off target, while Real Madrid only had eleven attempts on goal. The Rayo goals both came from penalties, and both were rightfully given penalties, after two rash fouls from the defence. Pepe hacked at the feet of Jonathan Viera, and Marcelo brainlessly jumped into the back of Iago Falqué. Both duly given penalties for ridiculous fouls that can’t be argued against. Real Madrid won’t get away with this sort of defensive display against Europe’s elite when they come up against them.

What exactly is an offside? For a player to be deemed offside when he’s ahead of the defensive players, he needs to be adjudged to be interfering with play. Two major talking points from Spain this week come in connection to this rule.

In Vallekas, with the score only at 1-0, Lass Bangoura sent a deep cross to the far post and met an unmarked Iago Falqué. The Rayo winger side footed the ball goalward, but the ball grazed off teammate Jonathan Viera’s leg, before hitting the back of the net. Viera, ahead of the ball and all defensive players at the time, didn’t however impede the path of Diego López or any other Real Madrid player. He also didn’t alter the direction the ball was travelling in too much – the ball was going to hit the back of the net regardless of whether or not he hit the ball, or more correctly, if the ball hit him.

Vallekas was in raptures, but just for a second. But I ask, can this really be deemed offside play and an illegal goal? Viera went for the ball from the cross initially, and his stride took him forward even though he missed it. The player behind him met the ball and was going to score a goal anyway. Viera’s influence on the passage of play was nothing, essentially. Rayistas will say they’ve been robbed, that at least is for sure.

The next offside talking point comes from Levante v Granada, where ex-Rayo captain Piti struck in a last minute winner for the Andalucíans from a free kick.

As you’ll see, midfielder Manuel Iturra stands somewhere between the last defender and the goalkeeper and stares at him, possibly even getting in the way of his view of the ball. In this instance, the player could well have interfered with play, as he may have put goalkeeper Keilor Navas off, and had a part in helping the ball cross the goal line. The referee could easily have called for offside in this instance, but there certainly would have been controversy on the opposite side of the debate had that happened, given the nature of the goal and the incomplete definitions of offside. The goal was given though, and the Granadinos were celebrating.

Real Sociedad have been gaining some form of late. After a very shaky start to the season, the Basques have now won three in their last four games, with their latest victory coming from thrashing Osasuna, who I’ve talked about having a strong defence recently, 5-0. The Navarrans held Barcelona scoreless just a few weeks ago, but now fell to La Real for five. Jagoba Arrasate’s men also picked up their first Champions League point against Manchester United this week, another testament to their upturn in form.

Lastly, Neymar has continued winning the plaudits since his game-winning display in the Clásico. In the derby Barceloni against Espanyol, his side found it difficult to break down their local rivals. Espanyol were determined to upset their illustrious neighbours and didn’t give them a sniff for the majority of the match, while also causing some problems for them at the back, as Espanyol looked a bit dangerous at times venturing forward. However the young Brazilian held the key to the treasure chest of three points, when his inspired pass found Alexis Sanchez for the game’s only goal. Neymar’s assist went through the legs of not one but two defenders in blue and white before being converted by the Chilean.

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