What a goal! Karim Benzema showcased his worth today by saving Real Madrid's Copa del Rey chances with a gorgeous goal against Sevilla in the 17th minute. Racing down the sideline, the young Frenchman cut by two defenders, sliced into the area, sent another defender sprawling, and then slotted the ball by Palop, Sevilla's keeper.
He dedicated the goal to José Mourinho, who turned 48 today, by exchanging a long hug with the manager on the sideline. Aitor Karanka, who has taken up press duties for Mourinho (and has severely hampered our "Mou's Clues" segment in doing so), suggested after the match that "the exchange between Benzema and Mourinho was very meaningful."
The goal came on the heels of Madrid's announcement that they had signed prolific goalscorer Emmanuel Adebayor from Manchester City to bolster the attack--a move that will likely shift Benzema to a reduced role, possibly on the bench. The French striker proved today that he will at least give the newly-acquired ex-"Citizen" a run for his money at the striker position: he has scored in both of his previous two matches, and has shown all season that with a little luck his talent will shine forth. This game may represent the start of something big for Karim.
Other than the magnificent goal los blancos managed to keep the game pretty low key by sticking to the 4-3-3 "trivot" featuring Lass, Xabi Alonso, and Khedira in the center of the midfield. Özil, Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema formed the attacking trident, and played quite well for most of the game (though Özil missed an unbelievable sitter that would have made it 0-2--see 2:34 in the highlights above).
There was a bit of controversy when Luís Fabiano had a goal called back: upon further review, the ball did not entirely cross the goal line thanks to some magical defending from Albiol. Sevilla faithful have something to seethe about, as seems to always be the case when our two teams play--both their enigmatic owner, José María Del Nido, and their outspoken coach, Gregorio Manzano, said similar things after the match: "It was a goal," Del Nido argued, and Manzano agreed, "The ball went in, it was a goal, and there's nothing more to say."
Well, perhaps this match was poetic justice for this Sevilla organization: they printed hundreds of posters that said in portuguese "We'll leave you without a title" (in reference to Mourinho), and several fans threw water bottles at Casillas after the game. Luckily, los blancos were able to wade threw all the muck surrounding the match and pull out a win--thanks to the brilliance of Karim Benzema.