Granada: An (un)acceptable defeat for Real Madrid?

Posted by Rob Train

They do some pretty decent tapas in Granada, but Real Madrid's appetite for this La Liga season is long gone. Jose Mourinho's side was unrecognizable from last season in its insipid 1-0 loss at Granada's Los Carmenes stadium on Saturday night. The visiting team did not muster a shot on goal until almost an hour of the game had elapsed, when Cristiano Ronaldo warmed Tono's hands for the first time on a chilly night in Andalusia.

- Mourinho: We were 'tired' and 'horrible'

The Real coach's admission that the league is a lost cause is hardly the greatest motivation for his team, and the majority of his players didn't go as far as looking even half-bothered about the outcome of a match against a side in the bottom three before kick-off. As against Barcelona on Wednesday night, a different Real Madrid will take the field against Manchester United in the Champions League and against the Catalan club in the return leg of the King's Cup tie and then the league encounter that will follow swiftly in its wake.

The concern for Florentino Perez, who did not look at all amused as he watched from the VIP box, is that among those big games, the likes of Sevilla, Rayo Vallecano and Deportivo will be sniffing points that against last season's Real Madrid would have been unthinkable. The obituary for Real's title defense is now cast in stone. Even Mourinho did not detach his back from the dugout during the first half, and when he emerged in the second, he had all the look of a man whose mind is already on the next job. Whether that means playing Manchester United or managing, it is anyone's guess.

The curious sight of Ronaldo scoring the goal that condemned Real to defeat -- its fifth in the league this season -- was matched only by the rest of the team's hapless inability to break down an organized Granada side. Call it the new coach complex -- Lucas Alcaraz assumed charge of the team on January 30 -- but motivation was the key factor in this match. Granada went for every ball with full commitment, snapping at Real's heels for 90 minutes and defending doggedly when the visitors pressured for an equalizer in the second half. Mikel Rico deserves a mention for a solid game in the breaking-down-attacks department for the home side. Nolito, a former Barcelona youth player, will enjoy the irony of his name featuring in the assists column to a Ronaldo goal.

A drastic change of haircuts at half time saw Karim Benzema and Jose Callejon replace Gonzalo Higuain and Sami Khedira, but the France striker looks increasingly like the player that Mourinho was far from enamored with when he arrived at the Bernabeu. A lassaiz-faire attempt to bury the rebound after good work from the Granada-born Callejon in the final stretch of the match summed up Benzema's contribution. A horrendous attempted cross by Angel di Maria that spooned into the stands shortly beforehand summed up Real's evening.

Few players came out with any credibility, but at least Ronaldo, playing on a dodgy ankle, tried to compensate for opening the scoring at the wrong end by doing his level best to add his name to both sides of the score sheet. After the match it was confirmed that the Portuguese winger did not aggravate the problem, despite going down wincing and clutching the offending appendage on 77 minutes. For Real's short-term aspirations, that was more important than the result.

Sergio Ramos was solid and did his job as captain well in his native region. Luka Modric, who has still to really find his place in the side, inked a '10' next to the box on his report card marked 'effort'.

But Modric is still not the number 10. Mesut Ozil is and how Real missed the keen, outsized eyes of the suspended Germany international. Ozil's nickname at Real is a kind of fish, but Modric increasingly looks like the player out of water and questions must surely be asked of Mourinho's stubborn resistance to Kaka's inclusion in the side. The Brazilian was not even among the substitutes at Los Carmenes, but his input could have been invaluable in a team utterly devoid of attacking ideas.

Matters at the back were hardly better. Guilherme Siqueira -- who attracted interest from top La Liga clubs including a tentative once-over by Real in the summer -- was by far the best left back on the field. A product of Granada's arrangement with Serie A side Udinese, Siqueira has since had a 25 million-euro buyout clause written into his deal at the club. On Saturday night's evidence, he is worth at least that much. Di Maria had little joy down the left hand side all evening. The Argentinean was the subject of a dressing down from Mourinho recently, the coach opining that since landing a new deal Di Maria has been somewhat complacent. After this latest shambles, most of Real's playing staff will be getting a similar message.

At least the signing of Diego Lopez was an astute bit of business. The former Villarreal keeper did little wrong and could do even less about Ronaldo's header. Maybe Real will reward Lopez for a positive start to his renewed Real career by finding a shirt in his size.

Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty ImagesJose Mourinho did not mince words post-match when talking about the players who had sat on Wednesday but played Saturday.

In another one piece of positive news, Marcelo made a return to the side, drafted in to replace Fabio Coentrao in the second half after the Portuguese international had been given the run-around once too often by Gabriel Torje, another Udinese product. The Brazilian picked up his first yellow card of the season on a frustrating night for Real.

Fear of relegation is a great motivator, especially at a club with Granada's limited resources. That alone proved sufficient for a famous win in Alcaraz's first game in charge and lifted Granada out of the bottom three.

Real's immediate problem is that scrapping for second place in La Liga doesn't seem to be enough for the players to justify their huge salaries. Maybe some see their futures elsewhere, much like their coach. From the thunderous look on Perez's face throughout the match, most will be lucky to have that decision in the their own hands if United and Barcelona hammer the final pair of nails into what is already a quite unacceptable season by the construction magnate's standards.

"I know why some players were tired because they played 90 minutes on Wednesday and worked hard. I don't know why others were tired, because on Wednesday they were on the bench or in the stands," said Mourinho after the match. "When we play well and win it is self-management, according to you [reporters]. When we lose it is the coach's fault.

"Granada did its job well. They scored their goal, defended in the second half with all of their soul. They have a new coach, new players and it was a great night of football for them here with Real Madrid. Maybe we could and should have scored an equalizer but for the great effort Granada put in I think the three points deservedly belong to them."


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