Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Spain February 2012
A three game long-weekend visit to Spain including seeing Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Though not a personal preference eating late sometimes works.
Arriving on an evening Ryanair flight from Stansted into Santander and settling into a hotel by 9.30pm might mean most restaurants are winding down, but not in Spain.
Where the action is just getting started.
So I enjoyed a typical local dinner of fish soup and steak washed down with the obligatory red wine.
Outside it is cold but dry.
11th February Racing Santander 0 Atletico Madrid 0
Earlier I had found an Irish pub to watch some of Man Utd v Liverpool before getting the bus to the El Sardinero.
The stadium is small but neat and reasonably cosy on cold night in northern Spain.
Atletico brought a few groups of fans and they were distributed near to the corners, as were the home ultras.
Atletico dominated the match but either failed with the final ball or the ultimate shot, a couple of times hitting the post.
When they did break through the home goalie, Tono, stopped everything.
How coach Diego Simeone might wish he had a Forlan or Aguero to convert the chances.
The result left Racing in the bottom three and Atletico in sixth.
I got the bus back to the centre and saw Barcelona lose to Osasuna on the hotel TV.
I took the early morning train from Santander to Madrid. Slow at first it got up to 250 km/hour on the stretch between Valladolid and Madrid.
12th February Rayo Vallecano 2 Getafe 0
A touch of Argentina ?
A 3 sided ground with apartment blocks behind advertising hoardings at one end and a decent group of flag waving ultras (for Spain) behind the other goal.
Rayo’s shirts could even be reminiscent of River Plate.
But I don’t remember anywhere in Buenos Aires having such a bitter wind blowing across the ground.
Getafe never really threatened not helped by having a man sent off in the second half.
Rayo scored one in each period and were convincing winners.
Real Madrid 4 Levante 2
My second visit to the Santiago Bernabeu and, from my seat in the central region, it looks as awesome as ever.
Somehow the five main levels and the steep sides and the colour perhaps make it more magnificent than (say) Wembley or indeed the Camp Nou.
But how they could benefit from magically transferring the ‘Imperial Guard’ or for that matter most other ultra groups from Argentina to make some serious noise.
Like at many European top clubs the fans wait to be entertained before warming up.
And we needed warming up - the roof heaters only barely doing their job.
In the end the game was another Cristiano Ronaldo masterclass.
But not before Levante had taken an early lead from a free kick.
Somehow you knew the relentless Real attacking would prevail, aided by the effortless passing of Alonso and the midfield skills of Ozil and Granero.
A CR7 penalty, header and a superb right foot strike did the business.
Although Arouna Kone of the Ivory Coast did head in a second consolation for the visitors.
Benzema curled in a fine fourth and after that Real contained any fightback from by now ten-man Levante.
Outside I found a metro station and was back at the hotel by 00.15.
Despite not having the strength in depth of the Premier League when you see either Real Madrid or Barcelona in the Spanish League it feels like a privilege to watch exceptional teams.
And exceptional goalscorers - Cristiano has scored 27 goals in 22 league games and Real themselves 75 goals in total.
more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/1138978862