It was very much a case of the good – quite literally – and the bad in Madrid this weekend.
– La Liga: Real Madrid held by Villarreal at Bernabeu
– Digby: Liverpool target Higuain inspired Napoli revival
– La Liga: Suarez and Barcelona close gap on Madrid
– Off The Bar: Ultimate underdog story as Chelsea prevail
The good was Alberto Bueno. And indeed, the man whose name is the adjective translated from Spanish to English, enjoyed a truly remarkable game for Rayo Vallecano. Well, 15 minutes at least. Bueno produced four goals in that amount of time, stunning both the Vallecas crowd and Levante in the process.
He was the first player to do so for Rayo in their Primera Division history, and the first player since the 1995-96 season to score a poker, the term for four goals, in such a short space of time. Bebeto was that man, as he destroyed the Albacete defence in just six minutes for Deportivo La Coruna.
What made Bueno’s all the more special, however, was that the initial three goals made a perfect hat-trick. There was a header, a right-footed shot, and then one with the left. His fourth then came via his stronger right foot.
“I had the feeling that everything I touched went in” said Bueno after the game, and indeed for those watching on, they felt the same.
It’s an impressive achievement from one of La Liga’s more understated heroes. A product of Real Madrid’s academy, Bueno has managed to finally carve himself out a decent career. The journey hasn’t been all smooth sailing however, with injuries and ill-fated moves hampering the progress of the player, now 26.
His contract is up in June, 2015, and there won’t be a shortage of suitors. Interest has already made itself known from England, and given his low wages with Rayo, he may be tempted by a welcome payday. Rayo too, with their mediocre resources, would do well to hang onto him. Bueno now has 12 La Liga goals this season – 17 fewer than the league’s leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for Bueno, given that none other than Spain coach Vicente del Bosque was in attendance. The player has noted that it is his dream to feature for La Roja at the highest level, having featured at every level from Under-16 to Under-21.
Now that would indeed be Bueno, Alberto.
— Alberto Bueno Calvo (@Albertobueno15) February 28, 2015
Things were not so rosy elsewhere in Madrid this weekend, however. With Barcelona managing a win away to Granada on Saturday evening, on a pitch that failed to meet their standards, the pressure was on Carlo Ancelotti’s Real side.
The Italian was to be perhaps the main protagonist on Sunday evening, against a Villarreal outfit that made seven changes from their team that beat Red Bull Salzburg midweek to secure a Europa League last 16 berth.
Cristiano Ronaldo, with his first goal at the Bernabeu in 85 days, thought he’d get the headlines over Bueno in Madrid this weekend. However, a Gerard Moreno strike was to cancel it out and bring frustration to the door of their illustrious hosts.
Ancelotti, with his team drawing 1-1, removed Isco from the field – a decision made much to the chagrin of Real Madrid’s supporters. Such is his current popularity at the club, among both players and fans alike, the decision seemed an odd one. Isco hadn’t had a particularly poor game, certainly none more so than any of his teammates. On in his place came Asier Illarramendi, and so did the message to Villarreal that the main creative threat had gone.
— Once Cracks (@OnceCracks_) March 1, 2015
The hosts admittedly wasted two good chances, Cristiano Ronaldo denied by Sergio Asenjo and Jese missing when it seemed easier to score. However, removing Isco clearly impacted both the feeling in the stands and on the field. Marcelino, Villarreal’s boss, said quite candidly after the game, “I’m quite surprised Ancelotti took Isco off for Illarra. If he’d not done that, Madrid probably would’ve won the game.”
Real supporters nodded their heads so hard in agreement they were in danger of falling off.
“We needed more balance” said Ancelotti post-game, attempting to justify the unjustifiable.
His team stays on top by two points, but such is the margin of error seemingly coming into play at this stage of the season, those could be two looked back upon with great regret.
Barcelona may be an unpredictable beast themselves at the moment, but they will likely seize upon any slip-up. Next weekend Real Madrid head to Bilbao, where a public traditionally baying for their blood will be waiting. Ancelotti better get his substitutions right, or the travelling fans will get in on the act too.