Real Madrid took full advantage of Galatasaray’s naivety

Following a comfortable 3-0 win for Madrid, Brendon Netto points out the naivety of Galatasaray's approach and how it has obliterated their chances of progressing.
 Brendon Netto
 Comment | Europe
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The first leg of the Champions League quarter-final clash between Real Madrid and Galatasaray went pretty much the way most people anticipated. In a 3-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid delivered an accomplished performance but were ably aided by what can only be described as a naïve approach from the visitors in a match of such magnitude.

As expected, Galatasaray stubbornly refused to sit back against their far more illustrious opponents and rather recklessly ventured forward whenever afforded the chance from the very start. Madrid on the other hand, were determined to keep a clean sheet in order to deny the Turkish outfit an away goal and gleefully picked them off on the break.

Madrid were lethal on the counter

Galatasaray were made to pay for their foolhardy approach within ten minutes of the opening period when a swift break from Los Blancos saw the lively Mesut Ozil slide a perfectly-weighted through ball for Cristiano Ronaldo who did the move justice with a classy chipped finish over the keeper and into the far corner of the goal. As the Portuguese star wheeled away in celebration, the signs were ominous for the Turkish side but they went on to ignore them.

In all fairness to Fatih Terim and his troops, they consistently created openings for themselves and nearly matched the hosts in attempts at goal for the first half an hour. Just a couple of minutes after Ronaldo’s opener, Didier Drogba rolled Sergio Ramos on the edge of the box and with the goal at his mercy, blazed his left-footed shot off target. Wesley Sneijder then skewed his own left-footed effort from range horribly wide after doing well to make the space for the shot initially.

Galatasaray had their chances in the first half

Hamit Altintop shot wide as well while Drogba had another effort parried away by Diego Lopez. However, as encouraging as Galatasaray’s chances would have seemed, having their opponents on the front foot was exactly what Madrid wanted and they continued to create the more clear-cut chances on the counter-attack. Ozil was brilliant in the night and his effort was well saved after Ronaldo set him up for the shot with the defenders back-tracking.

The Turkish team’s desire to commit bodies forward back-fired yet again as they lost possession and allowed Madrid to edge forward. They then defended the situation poorly as Albert Riera made no attempt to close down Michael Essien’s cross from the right and Emmanuel Eboue was too busy watching Ronaldo fly past him to notice Karim Benzema lurking at the far post. The unmarked Frenchman was able to control and slot home Madrid’s second under no pressure whatsoever.

The hosts were cruising at half time and were only made more comfortable in the second period. Sneijder hadn’t had his best 45 minutes as he rarely tracked back and often gave the ball away. However, the Dutchman showed intent in an attacking perspective and tried to play dangerous passes. With the midfielder substituted during the break, Galatasaray’s attack was left rudderless and they ended up going through the motions until the final whistle.

Sneijder's substituition negated Galatasaray's attacking threat

Terim’s side didn’t get forward as much in the second half more out of their inability to do so than choice. The decision to take Sneijder off resulted in the visitors surrendering more possession and Xabi Alonso was afforded time and space to dictate play. They weren’t able to create chances up front and Drogba was quickly becoming a frustrated figure. The game deteriorated to a pedestrian pace and with Galatasaray unable to inject anything into it as they gradually tired, Madrid began to stroll through the second half.

Eventually, with the visitors dejected, Madrid were able to add a third goal from a set-piece to all but decide the tie. Alonso's pin-point delivery was headed in by Gonzalo Higuain who had replaced Benzema a few minutes earlier. Galatasaray remained a timid side until the end. They had lost their attacking threat and remained shaky in defense. Madrid couldn’t have hoped for a more comfortable second period.

The visitors faded in the second half

In retrospect, there was absolutely no need for Galatasaray to go on the offensive in the first half. The objective in the first leg, especially away from home, should always have been to keep the tie alive. Instead, the Turks began the game like it was a must-win. When they have such a great atmosphere to return to at the Turk Telekom Arena, even a draw or a 1-0 defeat would have been good results, if they managed to nick an away goal, even better.

If they shaped up to be compact and contain the Madridistas, they would have had a great chance of stifling them, like so many sides have this season in a similar manner. They may have still conceded the odd goal but the deficit could’ve been kept to a minimum. With Yilmaz and Drogba up front and Sneijder in midfield, they would still have been able to create the odd chance to grab a crucial away goal while that was always a possibility from set-pieces as well. The way they came out and attacked the home team played into Jose Mourinho’s tactics perfectly.

Should he have been more cautious?

So why didn’t they sit back and primarily look to contain Madrid? It could well be that they just don’t have the tactical proficiency to adapt their style of play. Either they were naïve of they simply don’t know how to play that way. Galatasaray don’t defend deep, they like attacking and have never attempted to curb their natural aggression. Just like Barcelona can’t deviate from their tiki-taka brand of football or Stoke City can’t abandon their aerial attacks, the Turkish club simply can’t suppress their attacking instincts and retreat into their shells.

Whatever the reason, their approach in the first half has cost them dearly and has possibly brought their Champions League dream to an end. In the return leg however, there will be no tactical dilemma whatsoever. Galatasaray will have to set up like they did in the first half in Madrid and go for the kill with the rousing support from their fans behind them. They will have to score first to galvanize the crowd and themselves as they seek to pull off a miracle. Realistically though, Madrid should have more than enough to ensure their safe passage through to the semi-finals.


Did Galatasaray's approach cost them the tie? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.


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