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Jesé impresses again as Madrid earn first-leg lead over Osasuna

Jesé impresses again as Madrid earn first-leg lead over Osasuna



The 20-year-old hit Real Madrid's second goal before being taken off injured. Benzema opened the scoring for Los Blancos against a shot-shy Osasuna.

Not a single player or fan left the Santiago Bernabéu beset by worry. Not one will lose sleep over events on Thursday night. No one will be going over and over the match, except for Cristiano Ronaldo; he’ll spend the small hours of the morning tucking away the chances he missed on the night. Real Madrid take a first-leg advantage to Pamplona; Osasuna, though their flag was left flapping in shreds, are still alive. Everybody happy, or with cause for hope.

Goals from Karim Benzema and Jesé Rodríguez were the stand-out moments of the encounter, but it was Luka Modric who called the tune for Real Madrid. His bright play kept the match going in its uphill moments. Throw in a little Cristiano and add a touch of Osasuna, and what was served up did not want for substance.

WIth a quarter of an hour on the clock, it was as if a moment of almost metaphysical transcendence took place. Out of nothing, referee Pedro Jesús Pérez Moreno transformed a crystal-clear incident into a hieroglyph. Jesé came face to face with Asier Riesgo and there could be no doubting that the goalkeeper cleared the ball. Everyone saw it, but Pérez Montero heard voices. First he seemed to award a penalty, then he adjusted his earpiece and signalled offside. Finally, he booked Jesé. It was not clear whether he was listening to his assistant or tuning into Radio Olé.

I’m tempted to suggest that Osasuna were distracted by the confusion. Suddenly, Javi Gracia’s men took their eyes off the tactics board and started to scrutinise the stadium, the young ladies of Madrid, the night sky in the Spanish capital. It lasted no more than a minute, but Real took full advantage to open the scoring. Modric delivered a free-kick simply crying out to be glanced in, Benzema scraped his crew-cut against the ball and the hosts were ahead.

Osasuna did not let their heads go down. It happens to a lot of teams. When they visit the Bernabéu, they feel more comfortable with a more natural scoreline. And there’s nothing more customary than losing in Charmatín.

The visitors’ achievements were not limited to keeping their composure, however. Osasuna make a real effort to play good football. They have their difficulties at the back, but when they attack they do so with zeal and in numbers, and in the first half this intent brought about as many as three scoring chances, none clearer than that which fell to Oier (no goals in his last ten seasons).

Yet the problem for Real Madrid’s rivals isn’t finding the antidote, but making it last for 90 minutes. Few manage it. In the second half, tiredness saw Osasuna drop off, sitting deeper and prone to errors. The most glaring mistake was a loss of possession close to their penalty box, which – from Cristiano’s pass – ended up in the back of the net courtesy of Jesé. The 20-year-old was then substituted injured and to great applause, because he always offers something that makes you want to go on and read the next chapter.

Bale, like Jesé also returning to the Real Madrid line-up, warmed up as the match progressed – and if he failed to find the net it was because his best effort was blocked by Cristiano, the Portugal international lurking around the goalmouth as always. The Welshman also showed passing ability, touch, energy and, above all, speed: when he sets off with space ahead of him, he’s like a centaur.

Not to be downhearted, Gracia introduced the 16-year-old and hugely talented José García. Madrid were all over Osasuna, but the Rojillos’ coach responded with greater devotion to the ball. It may not be true that love conquers all, but it certainly attempts all.

Subsitute Álvaro Morata had a scoring chance in the closing stages and Osasuna put in one last push that gave them no little cause for optimism. That was how things ended; with fade to black and that enigmatic final message: to be continued.

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