Alaba, Ancelotti, Real Madrid playing smart, outthought Almeria
When Real Madrid’s second goal went in at Almeria on Sunday night, Davide Ancelotti was up and off the away team bench like an Olympic sprinter erupting from his blocks, reports espn.com.
It’s a great image, too. As the stadium reacts to David Alaba’s wondrous free kick that put the Spanish champions 2-1 up, sealing another of their famous fightback ‘remontadas,’ Ancelotti Jr. is roaring up at the heavens, knees bent, arms pumped towards the sky, leaning backwards until he’s practically doubled up: this is a man completely consumed by joy and vindication.
The backstory goes like this. Despite making five changes to the team that won the European Super Cup over Eintracht Frankfurt in midweek, Los Blancos had been sluggish and ragged in their LaLiga opener, especially when falling behind to a superb counter-attack goal early on.
Carlo Ancelotti reckoned, postmatch, that they ‘started badly, it became a complicated match and we weren’t fresh enough to play with real speed up front. It was tough to score our goals.’
Almeria, the promoted champions of Segunda Division, were playing well and repelling Madrid’s efforts with total confidence, so much so that even after Lucas equalised on the hour mark, Los Blancos were still tied 1-1 15 minutes later with the same amount of time left before the final whistle.
On the sidelines, the Ancelottis — 63-year-old father Carlo and Davide, his bright, talented, 33-year-old son — had concluded together that it was time to introduce David Alaba. Plus they were toying with the idea of adding Casemiro.
Alaba, scorer of Madrid’s opening goal against Frankfurt in Helsinki on Wednesday night, was ready first. He received detailed tactical instructions from Ancelotti Jr. and was prowling the touchline for nearly two minutes before there was a break in play enabling him to sub in — a break that came thanks to Rodrigo Ely fouling Luka Modric on the edge of the Almeria penalty area.
It was injudicious by the Brazilian, who protested both to the ref and to the Madrid midfielder, trying to establish a defendant’s case that he wasn’t guilty of obstruction and putting forward the idea that Modric had dived over his outstretched thigh. Ely also tried to haul Modric up off the ground; there was a spark of accusation and counter-accusation, all of which turned out to be just a sideshow distraction.
The real action was happening on the touchline.
Young Ancelotti hustled over to his father and demanded three things. First, that Alaba be subbed on immediately; second, that they didn’t wait for Casemiro to be ready to replace Toni Kroos; and third, that the two nominated free-kick takers, Kroos and Benzema, who were already hovering over the dead ball, be told that Alaba must take it. The debate lasted about five seconds, delegated authority was granted and Ancelotti Jr. told Alaba he should head directly to the free kick and tell the two world-class footballers, who both have been at the club many years more than the one-season Austrian, that he was going to take charge. They could both stand down.