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Real Madrid's perennial set-piece problem

Out of the 41 goals conceded this season, seven have come from corners and the rest from free-kicks. Welbeck's goal was the second time Diego López has been beaten in that way.

Real Madrid's perennial set-piece problem

Real Madrid's vulnerability from set-pieces was exposed one more, this time by Manchester United in last night's clash at the Bernabéu. Danny Welbeck's header from a Wayne Rooney corner was the 14th time José Mourinho's side have failed to defend adequately from a set-piece. Out of the 41 goals which the team has conceded this season, seven have come from corners and the remainder from free-kicks. Welbeck's opener was the second time that Diego López has been beaten from an in-swinging corner and almost a carbon copy of the goal which Cristiano Ronaldo headed into his own net a couple of weeks ago at Granada.

Madrid's susceptibility from dead ball situations is nothing new - it has been a concern for Mourinho since the day he took charge and an issue he has mentioned in his press conferences on several occasions (notably, against CSKA Moscow at the same stage of last season's tournament).

This season, the problem resurfaced during the Spanish Supercup Final when Leo Messi beat Casillas with a direct free-kick, albeit and incredibly well-taken one, at the Bernabéu. More worrying was Madrid defending which allowed Jonas to snatch an equalizer on the opening day of the season. A week later, Getafe took all three moves from the Whites' visit thanks to a similar move. That was when the balance suddenly tipped in Barça's favour in the league. As far as Mourinho is concerned, one of the most painful lapses in concentration witnessed so far occurred at the Sánchez Pizjuán in Week 4 - Trochowski scored from a corner with the game just two minutes old - a goal which again, cost Madrid all three points. The coach scolded the culprits in the post-match press conference but the problem persisted. In Valladolid, Manucho scored two in 15 minutes, Albín caught Madrid's rearguard napping to hit a last ditch equalizer for Espanyol at the Bernabéu in Week 16 and more recently, Cristiano inadvertently headed past his own keeper in a moment of confusion from a corner to hand Granada their first win over Real Madrid in 40 years.

And Madrid's weakness from set-pieces isn't just confined to the league outings. Ajax and Manchester City took advantage of poor planning in the Champions League group stage meetings while Adán's one-man wall to defend a free-kick proved too tempting an invitation for Tino Costa in the Copa del Rey return leg against Valencia. Mourinho knows that defending from set-pieces is an area which needs urgent attention and one which needs to be ironed out once and for all if his team is to triumph in either of the two Cup competitions this season.

Estadísticas AS.com