Higuain at the double to rescue ten-man Real
Real Madrid 2 – 0 Getafe
Ten-man Real Madrid fought back from their 4-0 midweek humiliation at the hands of Alcorcon – a side competing regularly against Real’s youth team in the third tier of Spanish football – to secure a much-needed victory against Getafe.
Argentine international Gonzalo Higuain enjoyed a rare start to ease the mounting pressure on coach Manuel Pellegrini by firing two second-half goals past Real’s local rivals in a win that saw them draw level on points with Barcelona at the top of La Liga.
Veteran midfielder Guti was omitted from the squad following a half-time dispute with Pellegrini during the shock Copa del Rey first-leg defeat and Raul was dropped to the bench for the game, but the Chilean’s selection struggled to find their rhythm until Raul Albiol controversially saw red on 28 minutes.
The Spain international’s manhandling of Getafe’s Roberto Soldado on the edge of the 18-yard box was harshly adjudged to have been a goal-scoring opportunity by the referee, despite the former Real Madrid striker having his back to goal, and the subsequent red card was met with disbelief by the 80,000 capacity crowd.
The sense of injustice rallied the home side and they played with a determination and incisiveness that more than matched Getafe for the remaining hour of the game.
Karim Benzema came close to opening the scoring on 35 minutes after striking Kaka’s pullback at the near post, but was denied by the feet of Oscar Ustari in the Getafe goal.
Moments later, Kaka appeared to be felled inside the box but the Brazilian’s claims for a spot-kick fell, perhaps unjustly, on deaf ears.
Another effort from Benzema fizzed wide of the goalkeeper’s right-hand post after the young Frenchman took Kaka’s pass on the turn 18-yards from goal.
The away side threatened to take the lead against the run of play shortly before half-time.
Soldado appeared to time his run in-behind the Real backline impeccably before seeing the assistant referee raise his flag to deny him as he bore down on goal.
The 24-year-old forward was denied again on the stroke of half-time after meeting Mane’s out-swinging cross with his head at the far post. This time Iker Casillas was on hand to palm the ball wide.
Saldado continued the second-half as he ended the first with another headed opportunity, but his diving attempt rose high and wide.
Real’s first effort of the second period almost gave them a deserved lead.
Getafe defender Cata Diaz failed to deal with the return pass of a one-two between Marcelo and Lassana Diarra and the former Portsmouth man stole the ball from the defender before lashing a left-footed strike at goal that was athletically tipped wide by Ustari.
The resulting corner was headed wide by Benzema seven yards from goal after the £30 million striker rose highest at the far post.
Getafe coach Michel opted for a more attacking approach in order to make their man advantage pay but, a minute after making the substitution, his side fell behind.
Marcelo’s measured curling ball over the head of Getafe centre-half Mario was taken onto the chest by Higuain before the 21-year-old steadied himself and curled the ball expertly past Ustari and into the net to give Real the lead on 53 minutes.
The Argentine international turned the game on its head just three minutes later by notching his second in quick succession.
Benzema played his strike partner in on goal after the impressive Diarra stole possession at the halfway line and Higuain slotted the ball emphatically past the advancing Ustari to double Real’s advantage.
He could have completed an incredible six-minute hat-trick had he taken on a shot on early after meeting Marcelo’s pullback from the left by-line, but opted to take a touch and was subsequently snuffed out by the defender.
Getafe dangerman Soldado should have dragged his side back into the game shortly after the hour mark with yet another headed chance from an in-swinging free-kick, but headed tamely at Casillas from close-range.
Higuain was denied his hat-trick for a second time on 66 minutes.
The Argentine outmuscled the defender inside Real’s half to latch on to Kaka’s through pass and drive at goal before unleashing a low effort across the goalkeeper that cruelly crashed against the foot of the left upright.
Higuain and Kaka were again involved as Real came close to the evasive third goal on 75 minutes.
Kaka received Higuain’s pass at the near post and managed to get a shot away as Ustari advanced towards him, but the goalkeeper blocked the effort with his legs to prevent a certain goal at close-range.
That was to be Higuain’s final involvement in the game as he left to the pitch to a rousing reception to be replaced by Raul.
Getafe threatened the Real goal again on 79 minutes and Casillas needed to be at his best to deny second-half substitute Jaime Gavilan’s venomous strike following Fabio Celestini’s ball towards the far post.
The final chance of the enthralling contest fell to Sergio Ramos as the Spain international leapt ahead of Ustari to get his head to a Xabi Alonso corner-kick, but could only manage to glance his header wide as the goal gaped.
Real Madrid: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Albiol, Arbeloa, Lass, Alonso, Higuain (Raul, 77), Kaka (Van der Vaart, 83), Marcelo, Benzema (Gago, 61)
Getafe: Ustari, Torres, Cata Diaz, Mario, Mane, Celestini, Boatang (Albin, 52), Leon, Parejo (Gonzalez, 68), Manu (Gavilan, 60), Soldado
Man of the Match: Gonzalo Higuain – Quick-fire brace turned the game on its head and earned Real a much-needed victory.