23.01.2011 » Real Madrid 1-0 Mallorca. Benzema scores and Ronaldo hits the bar.
Real Madrid were frustrated for long periods by Mallorca at the Santiago Bernabeu but eventually came out deserved winners thanks to a strike from Karim Benzema.
The striker returned to the starting line-up after missing out against Atletico Madrid in midweek and finally managed to get himself on the scoresheet in La Liga after a long dry spell. Madrid had much the better of the possession but were held out by a performance the Balearic Islanders defence can be proud of. The goal opened the away side up and Real Madrid in the end should have extended their lead with Benzema missing from close range and Cristiano Ronaldo hitting the bar. Jose Mourinho will be happy with a hard earned three points to keep them within four points of Barcelona.
Real Madrid had an early appeal for a penalty turned down by the referee, there was contact on Angel Di Maria but it was difficult to judge whether it was inside the area. Either way the official ignored the appeals of the Argentine winger, and play continued. Di Maria started the match with a click in his heels, selling two Mallorca defenders the dummy twice before unleashing a shot which deflected high in the box. Karim Benzema rose highest to the dropping ball but couldn't find a white shirt in the middle with his header. In the 14th minute los Blancos were almost caught out completely against the run of play. A sprayed cross-field pass found Emilio Nsue in acres of space. The forward cruised in on goal as Marcelo desperately tried to recover, but to the Brazilian full-backs relief Nsue struck the inside of the post.
With half an hour played the hosts were dominant but found it difficult to break down a gritty defensive pair in Ivan Ramis and Jose Carlos Nunes. The centre-backs were being worked constantly as Pierre Webo cut a very lonely figure in attack for los Bermellones. With the first-half coming to a close whistles of disapproval began to ring round the stadium, the visitors had set themselves deep and Michael Laudrup's men had restricted Madrid to very few chances. Madrid coach Jose Mourinho wasted little time, making two changes at half-time with Kaka and Fernando Gago being replaced by Mesut Oezil and Xabi Alonso. Alonso was straight into the action with a shot on goal, then a beautiful pass out to Di Maria.
Los Merengues' tempo was much improved in the opening five minutes of the second period, Di Maria and Ronaldo trying to pull the strings, leading to Ramis almost turning an Arbeloa cross into his own net. Mallorca were beginning to cause problems for the home side, Pierre Webo finally testing Iker Casillas with a powerful shot but the Spanish international keeper was alert to punch clear.
However, after an hour of holding off the los Blancos attack the deadlock was finally broken. Short passing between Ronaldo and Granero worked the ball to Karim Benzema on the edge of the box. The French striker dropped a shoulder on his marker and bent his shot low past Dudu Aouate. Madrid should have seen out the game despite a short rally for Mallorca, Cristiano Ronaldo hit the bar with a header and Karim Benzema missed two chances that were easier than the one he finished. Real Hearts' were in mouths with twenty seconds of stoppage time remaining, Pierre Webo powered himself towards goal but his shot from a tight angle was blocked out Casillas.
The victory keeps Madrid four points off Barcelona after a busy Copa del Rey week, while Mallorca now sit in tenth. "