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Madrid miss their cue

Tuesday, 23 November 2004

By Andy Hall at Santiago Bernabéu

[1] Raúl González's 49th UEFA Champions League goal was not enough to earn Real Madrid CF a vital Group B victory as Bayer 04 Leverkusen held on to secure a precious point thanks to Dimitar Berbatov's first-half strike.

Numerous opportunities

[2] The Bulgarian striker gave the visitors the lead nine minutes before half-time and although Madrid had the vast majority of possession thereafter and created a host of chances, they had only Raúl's 70th-minute equaliserwhich took him level with Alfredo Di Stéfano as the joint top scorer in European Champion Clubs' Cup historyto show for their efforts.

Figo fit

[3] Madrid coach Mariano García Remón was able to field Luís Figo, who had been doubtful with an ankle injury, while Iván Helguera also returned having overcome a knee injury to take his place in central defence. The visitors, meanwhile, were without Brazilian midfield player Robson Ponté through suspension so, with Clemens Fritz a long-term absentee, Marko Babic came into midfield while Jens Nowotny returned at the expense of Paul Freier.

Slow start

[4] Madrid captain Raúl had declared the match was like a "final" for his team, but the early play was surprisingly pedestrian and the home side struggled against a well-organised German side that played with three centre-backs. Raúl glanced David Beckham's free-kick over the bar on five minutes but many of the Spanish side's subsequent efforts were blocked by Leverkusen's resolute rearguard.

Krzynówek chances

[5] The away team failed to capitalise on their first attack of the evening, Jacek Krzynówek putting his free-kick straight into the hands of Iker Casillas. The Polish international midfield player then struck a thunderbolt effort from outside the box that soared over the bar.

Opportunist finish

[6] However, those chances offered encouragement for Klaus Augenthaler's side, and the German outfit deepened the gloom around the Bernabéu when they took the lead after 36 minutes. Jens Nowotny's centre was met by the head of Andriy Voronin, who got ahead of Beckham only to see his effort rebound off the crossbar. Walter Samuel's attempted header only put Madrid in more trouble, however, and Berbatov reacted swiftest to rifle in from close range.

Madrid hit back

[7] Krzynówek continued to threaten and had the chance to double Leverkusen's lead early in the second half when he was released down the left but his low drive was parried by Casillas. Recovering from falling behind, Madrid advanced in an attempt to redress the balance, but Ronaldo's first touch let him down when he was found, unmarked, by Zinedine Zidane on the edge of the box.

Remarkable miss

[8] Leverkusen goalkeeper Jörg Butt was called into action to block Míchel Salgado's drive on 64 minutes then substitute Fernando Morientes, on for Beckham, contrived to head wide of an open goal from just two metres out. Just as it looked increasingly as if it was not going to be Madrid's night, a well-worked move brought the home side level. Figo weaved his way into the penalty area, playing a one-two with Zidane before finding Raúl, who side-footed into an empty net.

Spectacular stop

[9] Confidence restored, Madrid stepped up their pressure, Roberto Carlos's swerving effort fisted away by Butt before the left-back's low cross was turned against a post by Ronaldo. Madrid were handed a golden opportunity to take three points as Juan brought down Zidane just inside the area, but Figo's well-struck spot-kick was acrobatically tipped over by Butt and the home side's last chance had gone. Madrid visit AS Roma on Matchday 6 while Leverkusen, who also have eight points, play section leaders FC Dynamo Kyiv.

Madrid's Luís Figo shows his disappointment at missing a penalty