Tuesday 20 March 2018

Clinical Pjanic bankrupts Madrid's costly pursuit of Euro domination

Real Madrid 1 Lyon 1(Lyon win 2-1 on aggregate)

Matt Hughes

If the prevailing wisdom that it is advisable to spend one's way out of recession holds true for football, Premier League clubs should brace themselves for another summer of pain from Spain after Real Madrid suffered the footballing equivalent of a sudden bankruptcy last night.

A second-half equaliser from Miralem Pjanic condemned Real to a sixth successive exit at the round-of-16 stage of the Champions League, a humiliating sequence of results for a club of their ambition.

Not even Florentino Perez can talk his way out of this one. The returning president spent €260m last summer in the hope of bringing back the glory days, but the construction magnate is facing a long period of rebuilding.

That process is unlikely to involve Manuel Pellegrini, who, despite leading Real to joint top of La Liga after their best domestic results for 15 years, seems certain to become the club's 10th coaching casualty in seven years.

Real's anguish will be exacerbated by the shattering of a dream of winning a 10th European Cup when the final is held at the Bernabeu in May. They have only themselves to blame.

Guti's beautiful ball down the left in the sixth minute to Cristiano Ronaldo left the Portugal forward with plenty to do, but accelerating away from Cris he beat Hugo Lloris between his legs with a first-time shot, struck by his weaker left foot.

The longer the match went on the more nervous Real became, as if the knowledge that an away goal would eliminate them nagged away at their souls. It was a prophetic fear.

For most of the second half, Lyon were more adventurous and their boldness paid off in the 75th minute as they scored a beautiful team goal when Cesar Delgado found Lisandro Lopez, who passed the ball on to Pjanic to beat Iker Casillas from close range.

Real were shell-shocked and could barely bring themselves to respond. The club's post mortem will be long and painful, with the panic buying likely to start swiftly in the summer. (© The Times, London)

Irish Independent

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