Tony Adams expected his already relegated team to be defeated by title-chasing Real Madrid, and heavily too, but he must have harboured hopes that their resistance would last a little longer than this.
A goal down after 140 seconds and two down after 10 minutes, Adams made the first substitution eight minutes later but it did not stem the bleeding. They trailed 3-0 on half an hour and it was four by the time the clock said 35, Granada beaten yet again. A solitary point in 11 games tells the sorry story of a side set for the second division.
For Zinedine Zidane there was satisfaction. He made nine changes to the side that defeated Atlético Madrid and, yet again, his “B team” responded. Victory was never in doubt, Madrid edging closer to winning a first league title in five years. They remain level with Barcelona but a game in hand means two wins and a draw, against Sevilla at home and Celta Vigo and Málaga away, would be enough. A league and European double beckons too, 59 years later. “We have three ‘finals’ left, plus a fourth in Europe to maybe reach the final [itself]; we know what we have to do,” Zidane said.
For Granada there is nothing they can do now except prepare for next season. When the fourth goal went in, Madrid’s fans, feeling pity, began to chant: “Granada es de primera”. The home fans applauded, appreciating the gesture, but they know that, if they belong in the first division, as the chant ran, their team does not. As if to prove it, Lucas Vázquez smashed a shot off the bar seconds later and then Casemiro missed a sitter.
In between time Rene Krhin sliced a shot up in the air and Andreas Pereira tripped over the ball. There was something comic about it but no one here was laughing. Instead Granada’s fans whistled and chanted “mercenaries” at their players. By next season most of them will have gone. None will be missed.
“The first half was unacceptable and words were spoken,” Adams said. “We made it too easy.”
Granada reacted late on, the promising Martin Hongla slipping to his knees as one opportunity flew past the bar and Adrian Ramos drawing two saves from Kiko Casilla before putting another late effort just wide. There was a cheer, too, for 20-year-old Juanan Entrena when he came on to make his debut. Adams said he was “proud” of how they played in a second half without goals, and those three should still be here next year, something to cling on to perhaps. Adams has been charged with rebuilding this club and they will play their part. A new sporting director, Manolo Salvador, has arrived and Adams has identified the new coach, who will be named next week.
“My job was to come in, clean, build and then come back and check,” the Englishman said. Coach was never his primary role and it has not been a happy one. “I was on a hiding to nothing, really. I didn’t enjoy the first half,” he said. “One day I’ll have a team of my own, a good team.” His record with this team now reads: five games, five defeats, one goal scored, 13 conceded.
It was not Ronaldo Modric or the injured Gareth Bale who put these latest goals beyond the goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, another loan player set to leave. Adams had tempted Zidane into playing his “A Team”, publicly suggesting he wanted to face Madrid’s strongest players while privately suspecting it would be harder against the supposedly weaker ones. Zidane, though, did not take the bait and those fears were founded. The gulf between these sides is gigantic.
The only regulars who started were Sergio Ramos and Casemiro , and then there was Fábio Coentrão. He has become a curious case; some consider his presence almost an offence. He had played only 79 league minutes and admitted he was “not at Madrid’s level”. But if Madrid had Coentrão, Adams could be forgiven for thinking he has a team of players not even that good. “Swap teams please,” he joked.
Virtually Coentrão’s first touch here was to clip in the cross from which James Rodríguez headed home. Ten minutes had gone and it was not even the opening goal. He had already got that from Lucas Vázquez’s third-minute cross. Álvaro Morata thumped the third off the bar and then cut inside neatly to strike the fourth high past Ochoa at the near post.
There was a long time to go, more chances at both ends and a banner declaring: “We’ll be back”. But the game was over; so too is Granada’s season and it has been for a long time.
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