Big spenders dish out cautious draw

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, their newly minted all-time top scorer, after missing one of his many chances to break the deadlock.
Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, their newly minted all-time top scorer, after missing one of his many chances to break the deadlock.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Real and PSG on course for knockout phase but most fans would have felt short-changed

PARIS • They may have the two highest-paid squads in world sport, but Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid on Wednesday produced a display that proved money is no guarantee of quality as they drew 0-0 at Parc des Princes.

Boasting starting line-ups that cost, respectively, £215 million (S$463 million) and £185 million, there were high hopes for the meeting of the heaviest of football's two financial heavyweights. But it ended without either side landing a punch.

Real are the side that PSG's Qatari owners want to emulate but, on this evidence, that is a low bar to have set. Even without a galaxy of their brightest and most expensive stars - Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema were out injured - Real ought to have offered far more in Paris.

But they seemed happy in the end not to lose a Champions League encounter that should ensure they lead Group A ahead of PSG, whose players' average annual salary of £5.3 million eclipsed even that of their Spanish opponents.

  • Match-fixing claim haunts Hell Clasico

  • MADRID • El Clasico - one of the biggest football fixtures in the world - could be at the centre of a match-fixing scandal.

    A Spanish assistant referee has made a formal complaint to anti-corruption authorities, claiming he was pressured to favour Real Madrid in next month's El Clasico against Barcelona by the league's refereeing committee.

    In a court filing published by Spanish radio station COPE on Wednesday, the official, who did not want to reveal his identity, claims pressure was put on a senior referee to handle the Nov 21 match in a manner that would "prejudice the interests of one of the clubs involved, Barcelona".

    It is alleged that the referee in question contacted the complainant to request he make the more difficult decisions in the match, as the referee's performance is subject to more scrutiny by the media.

    Moreover, the complainant alleges that he also received a phone call from a senior member of the referees' committee, advising him it would be "intelligent" to follow the instructions for the progression of his career.

    According to the Daily Mail, Jose Angel Jimenez Munoz de Morales, a member of the referees' committee, has been accused of making that call. He responded to those claims on Wednesday night, saying: "I have no idea where they come from. It is like something out of a Kafka novel."

    Referees in Spain's top flight are normally allocated to matches little more than a week before the games.

    Real last won La Liga in 2011-12, and currently share the lead this season with reigning champions Barcelona and Celta Vigo. The three teams have 18 points from eight games, with surprise 2013-14 champions Atletico Madrid two points adrift.

    Early in the season, Atletico manager Diego Simeone implied that Real's title bid would receive a helping hand.

    "The league is dangerously prepared for Real Madrid. Madrid cannot go seven years with only winning one league," he said. "This year I think that sadly it is difficult to see another team winning it."

    Thus far, however, Real have only been awarded one penalty while Barcelona have been given seven.

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Cristiano Ronaldo, who came into the game as Real's newly anointed top goal-scorer of all time, predictably had the best chances but his 72nd-minute volley flew just wide.

But even they were fleeting despite a timid PSG, and an anonymous Zlatan Ibrahimovic in particular. The Sweden striker failed to fire a shot on target as Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas effectively had the night off .

"I am not satisfied because we didn't get the result we were looking for," said PSG manager Laurent Blanc. "We corrected things in the second half. We opened up to Madrid hitting us on the break but I think that was a risk we had to take to try to win the game.

"We didn't dominate but the draw was fair and we were very good defensively so the biggest satisfaction comes from there."

The draw means Real remain unbeaten this season.

But critics who label Real manager Rafael Benitez an overly defensive coach will point out that Madrid failed to score for the first time in 41 Champions League group games since a 2-0 defeat to Juventus back in 2008, when Bernd Schuster was in charge.

It was also Madrid's third goal-less draw this season. Benitez, however, felt his side did enough to claim all three points.

"We deserved to win the match. Given the circumstances the performance of the team was not good, it was exceptional," he said.

"We had chances to win it, more than them, and decent control of the match against a team who are not easy to play against."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2015, with the headline 'BIG SPENDERS DISH OUT CAUTIOUS DRAW'. Print Edition | Subscribe