madridReal Madrid, hamstrung by the absence of four key forwards, drew their first blank of the season as they were held to a goalless draw by Sporting Gijon at El Molinon.

Already without Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy because of injury, Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini also had to do without Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain for the trip to Gijon due to niggles, and without that forward power the big-spending capital club could not find the breakthrough.

To put into perspective tonight’s result, Madrid had smashed 11 goals past Sporting in their two meetings last season and coming into the encounter Pellegrini’s troops had averaged over three goals a game this term, netting 31 times in just 10 league and Champions League games.

It was though a disappointing night for the title hopefuls, who have now won just once in four matches since world record signing Ronaldo picked up his ankle injury, losing to Sevilla and then again in midweek in Europe to AC Milan before drawing tonight.

Neither Madrid or Sporting were able to get the upper hand before the break, with both teams creating a couple of chances each but without being able to find the back of the net.

Sporting were first to threaten when Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas failed to collect a Luis Moran cross. The loose ball fell to Miguel de las Cuevas but it arrived to the former Atletico Madrid youngster at an awkward height and his effort drifted harmlessly wide.

Five minutes later Madrid had their first decent shot when Kaka brought a good save out of home custodian Juan Pablo Colinas from the edge of the box, and the visitors went close again on the half-hour mark when Raul stabbed the ball wide on the turn following a goalmouth scramble in the Sporting area.

The next opportunity fell Sporting’s way just before half-time, and it almost brought about the opening goal as De las Cuevas skipped past Marcelo before firing in a low shot that Casillas did well to turn behind for a corner at his near post.

That save allowed Madrid to go in on level terms at the break, and the visitors started to gain the upper hand at the start of the second half.

Their first opportunity of the second period came in the 52nd minute, and was possibly the best chance of the game.

A good one-touch move saw Sergio Ramos put Kaka in behind the Sporting defence and the Brazilian’s cut-back found Esteban Granero, whose first-time shot was brilliantly blocked by Colinas.

Colinas then did well to turn behind Kaka’s free-kick in the 65th minute before saving Pepe’s header from the resulting corner as Madrid continued to search for the opening goal of the game.

The visitors thought they had got it in the 77th minute when Raul latched onto a Kaka pass before firing into the corner of the net from the edge of the area, but the effort was ruled out, possibly either for a offside against the Madrid captain or for handball against Kaka – neither of which looked obvious from television replays.

Madrid only seriously threatened the Sporting goal on one more occasion after that, when Rafael van der Vaart’s curling free-kick from near the touchline almost caught out Colinas.

The Sporting goalkeeper looked for a moment as though he had ventured out too far, but he stretched backwards to claw the Dutchman’s cross-shot behind for a corner as the home side held on for their 12th point of the season to deny Madrid the victory.



Source : Soccernet