Callejon 'bothered' by Real Madrid's set-piece problem

Real Madrid winger Jose Callejon has said that he is irritated by the number of goals from set-pieces that the side have conceded.

Jose Mourinho’s men recovered from going down 2-1 away to Real Valladolid after a double from Manucho, with Mesut Ozil scoring twice to hand Los Blancos a 3-2 victory.

The former Espanyol star stated that he was happy with the win, and praised his side’s reaction after falling behind.

“Valladolid went ahead twice, but we managed to react well to get ourselves ahead and hold on, because they made things difficult for us,” the 25-year-old told the club’s official website.

“We came back with a good goal from Ozil, and I am happy with the match, now we can’t drop any points.”

But Callejon also spoke of Madrid’s poor record of conceding from set-pieces, and said the side must rectify those problems if they are to cut Barcelona’s lead.

“These sorts of goals bother me, because we have to be more alert and correct those mistakes,” he said.

“The set-piece situations, where opponents use their height advantage, are something we need to keep working on so that what happened in this match does not happen again.”

The La Liga champions travel to Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey in midweek, before facing Espanyol at home next weekend.

Real Madrid are still in the fight for the title – Ozil

Mesut Ozil has spoken positively about Real Madrid’s prospects of retaining their title after defeating Valladolid, pointing out that there is still a long way to go in this season’s race for La Liga.

The Germany international scored twice as Los Merengues battled back from behind to seal a 3-2 win over Pucela on Saturday and, despite the fact that his side trail Barcelona by eight points, he believes that there is still cause for optimism this season.

“We are happy because we played well and got the most important thing, which are the three points,” the 24-year-old told journalists after the game.

“We are still in the fight. There is a long way to go in the league. They were a tough team and it was a difficult field to play on. In the first half Valladolid played very well, but in the second half we played some good football and we got the goal.”

Ozil has now scored four times in 15 league fixtures and added that he was satisfied with his own contribution on the pitch, which included scoring a free-kick with 18 minutes remaining to earn the three points for the visitors.

“I feel good physically and the free-kick was very nice,” he commented.

“I was confident that I would score it. I’m happy that I scored twice.”

Out-of-this-world Ozil offers the antidote, but Real Madrid's set-piece sickness still hasn't healed

ANALYSIS
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

Real Madrid were in need of a saviour. Jose Mourinho’s men froze in the cold conditions at Valladolid and twice allowed the promoted side to move ahead from set-piece strikes, but twice were rescued by the midfielder’s magic.

Ozil’s form has been constantly questioned in 2012-13, but the German produced his finest performance of the season when his team needed him most, scoring a well-worked equaliser just before half-time after a mazy run and a one-two with Karim Benzema, before blasting home the winner with a free kick 19 minutes from time.

MAGIC MESUT

 THE GERMAN IN 2012-13
TOTAL GAMES
GOALS
ASSISTS
22
5
7

Madrid had seen a Sergio Ramos strike incorrectly ruled out for offside at 2-2 and Jose Mourinho made a series of attacking alterations in search of the three points, with Jose Callejon and even – briefly – Xabi Alonso dropping into defence, while Angel Di Maria and Luka Modric were both introduced.

But Ozil proved the hero with his two goals and earned praise from Mourinho’s assistant Aitor Karanka after the game. “Ozil did well,” the Basque said. “But it’s not just the goals and the final passes. Today he has done what we ask of him – his work off the ball was spectacular. That’s the Mesut that we all know and the one we all want to see.”

Nevertheless, it was his work with the ball which proved decisive for Madrid and the German has now emerged as a real alternative to Cristiano Ronaldo when it comes to taking free kicks. His second goal, hit home off the underside of the crossbar, was his second strike from a dead ball for Madrid this season, having also netted in the 2-2 draw at home to Borussia Dortmund. Ronaldo, meanwhile, has scored just one free kick in the last seven months – the first goal in Madrid’s 2-0 derby win over Atletico last weekend.

But while Mourinho has options for dead ball deliveries in attack, the Portuguese will be despairing at his side’s inability to defend set pieces at the other end. The goals conceded against Valladolid emanated from two corners and Manucho was given time and space to finish on both occasions by a static Madrid back line. It made an already tricky fixture that much more difficult and, at this level, is simply not acceptable.

The stats do not make happy reading for Madrid in that department. Of 22 goals conceded by Real in 2012-13, 11 have come from set pieces. Valencia, Getafe and Sevilla have already taken advantage in La Liga this term to take points off Mourinho’s men, while the capital club have also been exposed in dead-ball situations in Europe by Ajax and Manchester City in the current campaign.

Meanwhile, two have come from direct free kicks. Lionel Messi scored spectacularly in the Spanish Supercopa for Barcelona while Javi Lara netted for Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey recently. Those are more difficult to stop, although goalkeeper Iker Casillas was questioned last season after similar strikes by Santi Cazorla and Marcos Senna threatened to derail Madrid’s title tilt.

Prior to Saturday, there had been significant improvement on set plays and, aside from Sergio Aguero’s dubiously awarded penalty for Manchester City in the recent 1-1 draw at Eastlands (awarded harshly against Alvaro Arbeloa and almost impossible to stop anyway), Madrid had shut up shop in dead-ball situations. Against Valladolid, however, those mistakes were well and truly back. Luckily for Mourinho, so was Mesut Ozil.

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'It's about time referees make a mistake in Real Madrid's favour' – Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos has complained that Real Madrid have been the victim of constant errors by referees this season, claiming that officials have “harmed” them in more than one match.

The Spain international saw a goal wrongly ruled out for offside as his side came from behind to claim a 3-2 win over Valladolid, and although Mesut Ozil later sealed the win, the defender is far from happy.

“It was a goal and it annoys me that they ruled it offside, even though in the end we got the three points,” the 26-year-old was quoted as saying by AS.

“With another result the consequences would be very different. They’ve harmed us in more than one match now. It’s about time they make a mistake in our favour.”

Los Blancos currently sit third in La Liga with 32 points from 15 games and Ramos stressed that any small error could strike a blow against their chances of catching Barcelona, who have an eight point lead over their rivals.

“The distance between us and the leaders is a big one. Any slip would make things impossible and we wouldn’t like that to be down to the officials.”

Karanka praises Real Madrid's resilience

Aitor Karanka - Real Madrid

Goal.com / Shinichiro Ema

Aitor Karanka praised Real Madrid’s resilience after they came from behind twice before emerging with all three points on Saturday evening.

Valladolid took the lead on seven minutes through striker Manucho and, after Karim Benzema leveled five minutes later, Manucho scored again to give Miroslav Dukic’s side a surprise lead.

But a goal either side of half-time from Mesut Ozil was enough to give the reigning Liga champions all three points.

“We made mistakes at set-pieces,” the assistant coach told the club’s official website.

“But you have bear in mind that they were momentary lapses that are correctable and more than anything we can come away confident in the team’s comeback ability, having twice made up for the two mistakes.

“We fought back in a tough and important match.”

With the score 2-2 at half-time, Madrid coach Jose Mourinho made a tactical switch that ultimately paid off, with Karanka explaining the reasons behind the changes.

“We were drawing at half-time and we took off Nacho, who had played well and did what he had been asked to, but we were looking for more depth.

“We put Callejon at left-back and took off Arbeloa to put Ramos at right-back and look for more up the wing. Xabi [Alonso] also played at centre-back for a while so that we had more options to build from the back.

“When we went ahead we put Varane at wing-back, which is a more normal change, but the changes we made were all with a view to getting the win.”??

The 39-year-old then singled out Ozil for praise, stating his belief that his two goals would signal a return to form for the German international.

“He played well, but not only with the ball and scoring the goals, he also did what he needed to. We know very well how well he can play and he showed that throughout the match,” he added.

“The work that he did without the ball during the match was spectacular. Today we saw the Mesut Ozil that we all know and that we all like to see.”