After my first day in the Granada hot seat ended with a comfortable 2-0 win over Deportivo, I’m feeling rather confident that we can beat the drop.
Espanyol are up next. Quique Sanchez Flores says in his pre-match press conference that part of the charm of football is that he doesn’t know what to expect from us. We’ll see how charming he finds us when Adrian Ramos is tearing his defence to shreds.
We stick with the same team that started against Deportivo, hoping for a repeat of our quick start, but four minutes in we suffer our first scare. Oscar Duarte manages to knock the ball home from a Pablo Piatti cross, but fortunately the flag is raised for offside.
Five minutes later, it’s our turn to strike. Ramos is found on the edge of the box and waits for Artem Kravets to make a run in behind. The Colombian slots a neat pass into space inside the penalty area, and Kravets makes no mistake with a low finish across goal into the far corner. 1-0.
My new assistant Nigel Reo-Coker informs me that we’re committing too many fouls and should stop diving into tackles. The hypocrite. A scowl in his direction tells him that he’d be better keeping his ideas to himself – until Uche Agbo picks up a booking for another rash challenge.
Five minutes before the half-time break, Rene Krhin receives a fine pass from Mehdi Carcela and slots home to make it 2-0. We add a third through a Diego Reyes own goal in the second half, and yet again it’s Mubarak Wakaso causing all the problems for the opposition. Survival is in our sights.
After the game, I admit that I might have got a little carried away. So much so, in fact, that Quique Sanchez Flores decides to offer some personal advice. The main thing, though, is that we’ve jumped out of the drop zone with those three points. And that I have never been sacked by Watford.
A badly-timed trip to the Santiago Bernabéu follows our back-to-back winning start. Granada’s revamped tactics have been working so far and the players are full of confidence. We’ll stick with the same system and instructions for Real Madrid and see how we get on.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez line up as the front three for the hosts, which adds to the pre-match tension. But we’re keeping the ball outta one end and sticking it in the other, so have reason to believe.
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Perhaps not. The 13th minute proves to be unlucky as Ronaldo opens the scoring, before James slams home a shot from outside the box on 26 minutes.
Adrian Ramos then comes back to defend a corner and ends up giving away a penalty. Ronaldo steps up and, of course, he scores. Despite being the hero against Deportivo, Ramos is immediately hauled off and Andreas Pereira moves into a more withdrawn attacking midfield role. I’m all for 4-4-2, but this is getting ridiculous.
Five minutes after the minor tactical change, Kravets manages to make a nuisance of himself as a lone striker and Sergio Ramos fluffs his lines. The Ukraine international drives a speculative effort against the post, which cannons on to Keylor Navas’ back and into the net to get us on the scoresheet.
We push on a little more, with Mehdi Carcela making a nuisance of himself and firing home a near-post finish in first-half stoppage time. 3-2 and we suddenly have hope of turning this one around.
Passion is the key word in the dressing room at half-time, but sadly it doesn’t translate into a positive second half. We create few chances ourselves before Mateo Kovacic is brought off the bench by Zinedine Zidane and scores Real Madrid’s fourth via a lucky deflection. We’ve lost 4-2, but gave a surprisingly promising account of ourselves.
The story of my tenure so far has been one of two steps forward and one back. Two wins and one defeat – at least more encouraging than the real-life challenge at Granada, which eventually saw them relegated at the weekend following five successive defeats.
Despite clambering out of La Liga’s relegation zone thanks to the win against Espanyol, 10-man Sporting Gijon manage to pull off an unexpected win against Las Palmas and suck us back into the drop zone. It’s all to play for in our next match away to Celta Vigo – nothing but a victory will be enough to jump ahead of Sporting with our game in hand.
Osasuna and Real Betis have meanwhile constructed a bit of a cushion for themselves, turning this relegation battle into a strictly four-horse race.