Newly promoted Levante held Real Madrid to a 0 – 0 draw, fall short of the giant act of fellow new La Liga boys, Hercules who thumped Barcelona last week.
Real Madrid have been playing more purposefully in a more relaxed way and with controlled emotions since Jose Mourinho arrived. Their finishing still needs fine-tuning to reflect their flowing football, which they seem to enjoy. Hinguin was always threatening with telling moves into the penalty box with and without the ball.
Madrid, who used to play at a thousand miles an hour without any real threat to the opposition nor results to show for it, squandered tonnes of possession and let Levante off the hook. As they played in this particular match, it was ever promising that the glory days are around the corner. Sergio Ramos and Marcelo were less careless, supporting Ozil very well.
The Special One’s team won balls in the midfield and passed it forward in fluid attacking movements synonymous with Barcelona, instead of running all night with it. Levante deserve credit for keeping a blank sheet going for the half-time break. Xavi Alonso lost a few passes though despite a good partnership with Samiar Khadira.
Team work was more visible, replacing a battle of egos of the overpaid individuals that was the order of day in months gone by. Cristiano Ronaldo’s 37th minute header and 42nd minute attempt almost opened the floodgates for Real, but either the goalkeeper was good to the challenge or luck abandoned the Portuguese maestro.
The second half was more promising for Real as they stepped up the pressure. The newly promoted Levante did not lay back and wait for Madrid to slaughter them. They worked their socks off, supporting the man under pressure very well. Ricardo Carvalho had to be at his best as the new boys did not show any respect for the big names.
Karim Benzema came in for Ozil while Pedro came in for Di Mario in the 60th minute, in a bid to take control of the match. Actually, they almost ripped open the Levante defence in the 64th minute with crisp passing but fluffed the final ball. There was a good spell for rest of the match, which included a penalty appeal for handball.
Levante continued to frustrate Real moves with sometimes over-committed tackles. Real possessed the ball with authority but their penetration was expertly foiled by excellent defensive work, which Arsenal of England would have to learn, and the failure to deliver the clean final ball. They must be commended for their patience under the circumstances as they kept looking for the elusive opening with incisive passing beyond the central defence.
Jose Mourinho was visibly displeased with the result, but surely impressed with the progress the team has made in their ability to move the ball around. He remains very Special no matter how much you dislike him.