Mourinho's Real Madrid `Work in Progress' Gets Victory in Champions League
Jose Mourinho loosened his tie though couldn’t quite relax in his first Champions League game in charge of record nine-time winner Real Madrid.
The Portuguese coach paced up and down in a gray suit, threw his hands up and kicked the air as his team squandered 34 shots in a 2-0 win over Ajax at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium last night. The visiting team had eight shots.
Real Madrid, which hasn’t advanced beyond the last 16 of European soccer’s elite club competition since 2004, didn’t make sure of the victory in the first of six group games until the 73rd minute when Gonzalo Higuain scored. The opener was a 31st- minute own goal by Vurnon Anita.
“One day, one poor goalkeeper is going to pay” for those misses, Mourinho told reporters. “Maybe because we had so much pressure my forwards weren’t efficient in front of goal. We completely dominated.”
Mourinho is embarking on his first Champions League campaign with Real, soccer’s biggest team by sales, as he seeks to become the first coach to win the competition with three different teams. He guided Porto to the 2004 title before last season’s victory with Inter Milan.
Cristiano Ronaldo and offseason signing Angel Di Maria missed most of Real’s chances. Arsenal beat Braga 6-0 last night by scoring with almost half its 14 shots at goal, while Chelsea won 4-1 at MSK Zilina, converting almost one-third of 13 chances.
Mourinho said he’s not concerned as long as his team is playing most of the game in the opposition’s half. Real is yet to allow a goal in its three games since he took charge.
“I’ve watched many Real Madrid games when goalkeeper Iker Casillas was the man of the match,” Mourinho said. “The last three games he has hardly touched the ball. I’m happy.”
Real drew 0-0 at Real Mallorca and beat Osasuna 1-0 in its first two Spanish league matches.
Real, which added six new players in the offseason, remains a “work in progress” because the squad has had 10 training sessions together, according to Mourinho.
Anita’s own goal put Real 1-0 up as Xabi Alonso’s corner rolled off the defender’s shoe into the net during a scramble.
Higuain made it 2-0 when he side-footed into the net from close range. Mesut Ozil lobbed the ball to him and out of reach of goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who was stranded after parrying another shot.
Stekelenburg, the Netherlands’ World Cup goalkeeper, stopped more than a dozen other shots in Ajax’s first Champions League group game since the 2005/06 season. Without suspended top scorer Luis Suarez, Ajax came closest to scoring when Anita’s shot hit the crossbar late in the game.
Men and Boys
“It was men against boys,” Ajax coach Martin Jol told a news conference. “We need to try not to give the ball away. We didn’t do that.”
After saying Real fans could give more support three days ago, Ronaldo was whistled at for wasting two chances after halftime. He shot at Stekelenburg from 10 yards and then lofted an effort over the crossbar in the 56th minute.
The Portuguese forward also failed to convert Higuain’s cross from five yards out as the ball skimmed off his shoe.
“He can sort that out by scoring two or three goals when he plays badly,” Mourinho said. “That’s often what happens.”