Higuain celebrates with Di Maria

Real Madrid line-up: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Xabi Alonso, Khedira, Lass (Di Maria, 74), Ronaldo, Benzema (Ozil, 58) and Higuain (Mahmadou Diarra, 86).

Auxerre line-up: Soni, Hengbart, Coulibaly, Grichting, Dudka, N’Dinga, Pedretti, Contout (Jelen, 47), Chafni (Quercia, 88), Langil (Traore, 78) and Oliech.

In what was a very rare line-up for Real Madrid but not one uncommon to the coach at his previous teams, saw the visitors line up with 3 defensive midfielders, with Xabi playing just a little ahead of Lass and Khedira, as the “deep lying playmaker”, with one striker and two wingers.  For most of you who will say he used two strikers, he actually had Benzema playing as a winger, switching flanks with Ronaldo at times.

Auxerre started out radiant and created some guilt edged opportunities before Madrid really began to control the game and stroke the ball around.  On the 4th minute a long ball was played up field for Oliech to chase who had beat Pepe and Ramos for pace, Casillas ran out to challenge but his tackle only hit off the forward’s legs and allowed Oliech to give chase but the ball picked up pace and ran out over the goal line before Oliech could get to it.  Two minutes later and there was another close chance for Auxerre as Langil whipped in a lovely ball from the right that Oliech just over ran and Marcelo managed to clear at the far post.  Eight minutes in and Madrid’s first opportunity came through Ronaldo after he cut inside and took a shot from 20 yards that Sorin had to parry.  Two minutes later, in the 10th minute, another chance for the visitors as Diarra took a shot from 25 yards that just went wide of the upright.  Fifteenth minute and a corner from the right comes in, headed on by Khedira, finds Higuain who did well to drag the ball back and hit it under Sorin but Coulibaly was on the line to clear it.  The visitors stroked the ball around with ease as the home team were content to sit back and allow them the freedom.  Twenty-fifth minute and from a free kick on the left,  Pedretti sent in a wonderful cross that met the head of N’Dinga but he saw his effort go just wide of the post.  Thirty-five minutes in and Lass did well to beat Langlin and have a go from 18 yards but his effort went sky high.  Thirty-sixth minute and Xabi, who saw the run of Marcelo on the left found him with a lovely diagonal ball which Marcelo controlled with his chest brilliantly and drove a volley into the ground that Sorin managed to saved– should’ve have buried that opportunity but a great play by Xabi and a good effort from Marcelo nevertheless.  In the 52nd minute Khedira who was wide sent in a cross that Arbeloa got his head on but it went just over the bar.  In the 61st minute Jelen had a great opportunity to put his side up a goal but saw Casillas narrow his angle and he put his effort well wide of goal.  Four minutes later, Arbeloa finds Ronaldo on the edge of the box who took a powerful strike on goal but Sorin stood his ground and held on to the ball.  Ronaldo had another effort on the 68th minute from a freek kick 30 yards out that had some swerve on it but Sorin managed to punch it clear.  Real Madrid were really piling the pressure on and in the 74th minute Di Maria was introduce for Lass.  Di Maria’s presence was felt immediately and just two minutes after coming on he whipped a wondrous cross into the 6 yard box that Higuain just couldn’t get a boot to.  Pepe was almost left red-faced in the 78th minute after he attempted to clear a cross from Traore, but was happy to see his header ping off the upright and Ramos cleared comfortably.  However, three minutes after that near disaster, Di Maria scored what was the game’s only goal on the 81st minute after a lovely ball from the right was angled in for him (the cross might have been headed on by Higuain), which he took down on his chest brilliantly and volleyed with his left into the bottom right corner– a wonderful strike, certainly worthy of all three points!

Real Madrid are now top of their group after their narrow win and also, Milan were held to a draw by Ajax in Amsterdan.

Di Maria’s Goal