By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Iker Casillas apologised to his defenders. The Real Madrid goalkeeper had made a mess of what should have been a routine save from Jesus Navas' 20-yard drive. But less than 30 seconds later, he was picking the ball out of the back of his net.
From the resulting corner, Angel Di Maria failed to track Piotr Trochowski and the German struck an unstoppable half-volley into the top-right hand corner. There were just 68 seconds on the clock. It was an early blow for Jose Mourinho's men but they seemingly had plenty of time to recover. They never did.
The Portuguese recently revealed his squad had spent hours and hours working on set pieces, but that was the third goal they had conceded from such situations in just four fixtures in La Liga so far. It is the worst record of any side in the competition this term and remains a huge concern for Madrid.
But it is not the only one. Before the game, Mourinho had claimed he was more worried by his side's faltering form than by Cristiano Ronaldo's well-documented sadness. And on this evidence, he had every reason to be. One win, one draw and two losses in La Liga so far represents his worst-ever start to a season as a coach and, to make matters worse, Madrid are already eight points behind Barcelona.
|BARCA CONTINUE PERFECT START
|While Madrid looked off-colour in their new green kit, Barca shone in orange and yellow, extending their flawless start to La Liga to a fourth straight success by beating Getafe 4-1 in the capital.
The excellent Cesc Fabregas created the first for Adriano as he put his recent poor form behind him, before Lionel Messi stepped off the bench to add two more, including one from the penalty spot.
David Villa added a classy fourth after coming on too, as the Catalans replicated their start to the 2009-10 season, when they also won their first four.
The only sour note was a knee injury to captain Carles Puyol, who is sidelined for up to six weeks and will miss the Clasico.
Mourinho had seen his side come off second best in a physical battle at the Sanchez Pizjuan as Sevilla played with impressive intensity, cut the supply line from Xabi Alonso and restricted their visitors to only a handful of opportunities.
Gonzalo Higuain should have made at least one of them count, blasting over the bar after 21 minutes and hitting another effort straight at Andres Palop shortly after half-time. In truth, however, he was lucky to even be on the pitch at all after kicking out at Fernando Navarro early in the game.
All eyes were on Ronaldo, though. The Portuguese saw a free kick in the first half saved and came close with another long-range effort, but was unable to find the space to exploit a side he had picked apart so seamlessly with four goals in 2010-11, and three more last term in back-to-back 6-2 wins.
Cristiano also saw two penalty appeals knocked back and seemed to spend more time on the turf than stretching Sevilla. The sad face was back.
In fairness, however, the Portuguese had scarce support. Di Maria was dreadful before departing at the interval, while Mesut Ozil proved peripheral, save a couple of decent passes and late second-half substitute Jose Callejon was frustrating at best.
The man who almost changed the game in Madrid's favour was Luka Modric. The summer signing came off the bench at half-time and for 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning of the second period gave Madrid the creative impetus they had been lacking in the middle.
Modric came closest of all as he saw his long-range drive pushed onto the post by Palop after 52 minutes. But the Croat saw his influence wane, and as Trochowski dropped deeper late on, Sevilla maintained their incredible intensity and defended in numbers to keep Madrid at bay.
Mourinho must have wished he had started Modric, but with the material at his disposal, Madrid should still have had enough to win this game. Tactically, there appeared to be no clear objective and four games into the new season that must surely be the greatest concern of all.
"I don't have a team at the moment," Mourinho told reporters in a quick-fire press conference after the game. But the buck stops with the coach and it seems strange a side that brilliantly beat Barca to win the Spanish Supercopa can produce such disjointed displays in La Liga.
With Pep Guardiola gone, perhaps the Portuguese lacks the motivation necessary to get the very best out of his toiling team. Already eight points behind Vilanova's Barcelona, the road back looks long now. With 34 games still to play, it is too early to write them off just yet, but the title is already Barca's to lose and with a Clasico to come at Camp Nou on October 7, the Catalans can conceivably extend their advantage at the top.
That is a game Madrid simply cannot afford to lose, but at the moment it is difficult to imagine any other result. "I'm worried about my team," Mourinho added.
So he should be.
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