South playmakers not enough to top North

first_img BY DOUG McKENZIE Staff Writer Mandeville, Thomas shine at 28th annual all-star game BY DOUG McKENZIEStaff Writer JEFF GRANIT staff Raritan’s Andrew Mandeville gave Monmouth University football fans yet another glimpse of what they have to look forward to as he was the South squad’s top offensive player at the 28th annual North-South All-Star Game at Rutgers Stadium on Thursday. Some familiar names made some familiar great plays on Thursday as many of the top graduating high school football players in the state played in the 28th annual North-South All-Star Football Game at Rutgers Stadium. The South squad, which featured several of the top players from both the Shore and Greater Middlesex conferences, put forth a valiant effort before falling to their counterparts from the North, 31-16. But not before a few of the area’s top players over the last few seasons left a lasting impression in what was for some their final scholastic appearance. Fans of Monmouth University football were already excited about the athleticism and leadership Raritan’s Andrew Mandeville will bring to the Hawks over the next four years. Mandeville, who was a two-time All-State selection, has been one of the Shore Conference’s most electrifying offensive players for the past four years as the Rocket’s quarterback. His ability to combine his strong throwing arm with a fearless approach to running the ball made him one of the most versatile signal-callers in the state. On Thursday, he reminded everyone just how dangerous a player he can be, proving to be the South’s most explosive offensive weapon, whether he was throwing the ball, running with it, or making three escapes from would-be sacks. Mandeville came into the game on a first-and-goal from the 8-yard line after Camden Catholic quarterback drove the South squad 72 yards on 11 plays. Once in the game, it didn’t take Mandeville long find the end zone, tucking the ball on his first snap and scampering in for the touchdown. Unfortunately, the North offense was even more efficient as they scored the next 23 points, on a safety and three straight TDs. As a result, the North had a 23-7 halftime lead. Once the second half started, Mandeville did his best to get his team back in the game, firing a 71-yard pass to Perth Amboy’s Manuel Torres. That set up a 32-yard field goal from New Egypt’s Andrew Weingart, the first New Egypt player to participate in this annual game. The South squad came close to shortening the gap on their next possession, only to see their drive stall with a missed field goal. Once the North squad added another touchdown in the fourth quarter, Mandeville’s second TD of the game (a 7-yard scamper) proved meaningless. For the game, Mandeville finished 5-for-9 in the air for 153 yards. While he was the top offensive players for the South, it was Sayreville’s Shaune Thomas who was the star on the other side of the ball. Fans of Sayreville High School football are accustomed to seeing Thomas take over a game on either side of the ball, but on Thursday, the Nassau Community College-bound Bomber was showing off his athleticism in leading the South defense. In the first half, Thomas saved a would-be touchdown with an acrobatic interception that left most people calling it the play of the game. With 13:00 left in the second quarter, Thomas stepped in front of the intended receiver to record the diving INT, fully extending his body in the process. He later added a blocked extra point following a North touchdown, again displaying the athleticism that has earned him the distinction as one of the top football and track and field stars in Sayreville’s celebrated history. While Thomas was deservedly named the game’s State Farm Outstanding Defensive Player of the Game, among the other local players who excelled on defense were Middletown South’s Keith Heaney (seven tackles), Ocean Township’s Corey Giddings (six tackles) and Red Bank Catholic’s Mike Kelly (four tackles). The South offense also got strong efforts from Brick Memorial’s Mike Lepore (four catches, 74 yards) and Metuchen’s Lenny Bing, who moved over from his usual wide receiver spot to make his debut at fullback, and rushed nine times for 72 yards. Bing’s surprisingly natural move to fullback may wind up giving his future coaches at the University of Albany some options they didn’t know they had, though Bing is expected to play H-back for the Great Danes.last_img read more

Ron Nuzzolo

first_imgFish On A local boat captain’s take on ling and hake Over the winter months you read about fishing reports where anglers were catching ling and hake. I received many inquiries about these creatures. What are they? What do they look like? Are they good to eat? Well I found answers to these questions from one of the best party boat captains on the East Coast, Capt. Bob Bogan of the Gambler in Point Pleasant. Capt. Bob makes a living catching these winter fish. He makes it his business to know all there is to know about every fish in our waters. The more you know about each species habitat, water temperature, depth, bottom landscape, prey and signs from above (sea gulls), the easier it is to find them. Ling are in the cod family and are great to eat. According to Bogan, ling are really red hake. Purple hake and white hake look very similar. Many of the smaller purple and whites are easily mistaken for the more common ling. Our ling appear pale-tan/orange when they are on the move. When they have been sitting on a wreck for a long time, they turn darker, sometimes rust colored to match the color of the wreck. The purple hake has a subtle shade of purple along its flanks. A white hake is lighter in color, with the white of its belly reaching further up its sides. Except for its larger size, it is even harder to distinguish from the ling than a purple. Silver hake is whiting and is in the cod family. (I miss whiting.) Whiting fishery was a big recreational winter fish years ago. Squirrel hake is smaller than a ling and has white spots on its flanks. They are generally caught when the water is warmer. If you get a chance, visit the Gambler on the Web at www.gamblerfishing.net and check out some of their upcoming trips. Capt. Bob will make you feel right at home and will supply you with all your needs and tackle to have a memorable trip. Offshore: Gambler’s 30-mile trip was slower last week. High hook was 15 ling. There were a couple cod and Pollock, and a 6-pound purple hake won the pool. From the surf: I did get reports from Belford (west of Ammo pier) that stripers were being caught and released up to 24 inches on clams on the outgoing tide. Get ready, they’re here. As the weather warms up in the coming months I will recommend some easy ways to get the family introduced to the sport. You should never feel intimidated to go on a party boat or on a beach and cast a line in the water. Fishermen are usually reserved and quiet, but once you ask for assistance they are willing to help out and show you the basics, and some will even tell you about the one that just got away. Recipe of the week Every week I ask readers to send in their favorite local recipes to share with the rest of us. This week’s recipe is from a Jersey girl who was born in Long Branch, and grew up there. Anna Denardo moved to Aberdeen when she got married to her husband Fred, and it’s actually her mother-in-law’s recipe, revamped with the added Emeril’s Fish Rub. Anna comes from a long line of fishermen. Anna’s family was the original owners of “Giglios Bait and Tackle Shop” in Sea Bright. The original owners were Anna’s dad and three older brothers, Armond, Arthur and Robert Giglio. Armond and Arthur have since passed away, and Ernie, another brother took over the store in the early ’90s with his nephew Jimmy Giglio (Armond’s son). Unfortunately, it has been closed for about four years. It originally opened in the early ’60s. Thank you, Anna, for sharing this with our readers. Get the net: 5 out of 5 nets Comment: Just in time for flounder season, impressive Difficulty: medium Anna’s Stuffed Flounder 5-6 flounder fillets Stuffing 1/2 small onion chopped 2 tbsp. salted butter 1 can LUMP crab meat 3/4 cup flavored bread crumbs 2 tbsp. mayonnaise Pinch of pepper Paprika for color Toothpicks Emeril’s Fish Rub Extra virgin olive oil Lemon White wine To Prepare : Rinse the fillets in cool water and set aside in a bowl. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Take out a baking dish and set aside. In a small skillet, add your butter and chopped onions and sauté until the onions are soft. Let cool. In a small mixing bowl, add the bread crumbs, lump crab meat, mayonnaise, pepper, paprika. (For added kick, you can add Tobasco sauce.) If it’s too dry, you can add a little water. (You should be able to roll this stuffing into a ball.) Lay your fillets white seam side down, flat side up. Place about a heaping tablespoon of stuffing onto the fillet and roll. Hold together with toothpicks. Place them into the baking dish as you go along. When finished, sprinkle Emeril’s Fish Rub and olive oil. Cut the lemon and sprinkle over the fillets. Pour wine around the fillets. Bake for 20- 25 minutes. Chef: Anna Denardo, Aberdeenlast_img read more

Mid South football falls short of another state crown

first_imgEagles lose to Freehold Borough in title game BY DOUG McKENZIE Correspondent JEFF GRANIT staff Middletown High School South’s Ryan Mullan fights for yards as Freehold Borough’s Rakim Thorpe tries to tackle him during their Central Jersey Group III championship game at Rutgers Stadium on Dec. 6. South lost by a score of 21-14. Middletown South has historically been a virtual lock in state championship games (with five titles since 2001 and nine overall). In fact, in their last three sectional title games, the Eagles have been downright dominant, outscoring the opposition by a combined 74-0. None of that mattered to the Freehold Borough Colonials, who defeated South 21- 14 for the school’s first state sectional crown in school history. Freehold Borough entered Saturday’s Central Jersey Group III championship game at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway brimming with confidence, having beaten Middletown South in each of the teams’ last two meetings. Simply put, the Colonials were not going to be intimidated by the Eagles, regardless of their championship pedigree. From the game’s first snap on Saturday, Freehold Borough proved to be a team that fully expected to win its first state title. Taking advantage of their big-play ability, the Colonials dominated the action early on to the tune of a 21-0 lead. The Colonials came out and immediately took control of the game with a 45-yard pass play down to the Eagle 4-yard line from Nick Tyson to Gerry Plescia on the first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Tyson (who was 9-for-15 for 140 yards throwing, while also carrying the ball 13 times for 60 yards) was in the end zone, and with a Plescia extra point, Freehold had a 7-0 lead. “They just ran their offense,” South head coach Steve Antonucci said. “They didn’t do anything to surprise us. On that first play, they may have caught our corner off-guard a little bit. “We helped them out early on, too, by turning the ball over, which we knew we couldn’t do.” The lead swelled to 14-0 when Freehold put together a 10-play, 58-yard drive, capped by a one-yard TD plunge from Tyson. Then, with time winding down in the first half, the Colonials got a Tezzy Thorpe one-yard TD with 2:46 to play to make it 21-0. Antonucci credited Tyson with setting the tone for his team offensively throughout the first half. “He’s been the difference for them all year,” the coach said. “He’s a very good player and a very good leader. He’s got some weapons at his disposal over there, and he takes full advantage of it.” Despite the daunting deficit, Middletown South would not go quietly. Showing the same resolve that has become a trademark of this Eagle team, Antonucci’s squad got back in the game when quarterback Ryan Mullan hit sophomore wideout Andrew Suarez for a 49-yard TD pass with just 1:12 to go in the half. Down 21-7 at the break, Middletown South was able to capture some much-needed momentum heading into the third quarter. “I think they showed a lot of character,” Antonucci said of his players. “They could have bagged it, down 21-0, and it could have gotten ugly. But they showed a lot of poise, and we got that score and the momentum began to swing in our favor.” Both defenses began to assert themselves in the start of the second half, and the Eagles were able to get within a score when Mullan hit Sean Campell over the middle for an 11- yard TD to make the score 21-14. While the South defense continued to clamp down on Freehold’s explosive offense, the Eagles had a great opportunity to tie the game up, reaching the Freehold six-yard line in the fourth quarter. However, it was at this point that the Colonial defense seized the moment, making the biggest players of the game, and essentially sealing the deal. Junior strong safety Martin Corso initiated the defensive stand, stopping running back Chris Bunge for a 12-yard loss. Mullan then found Campbell for 11 yards to get back to the 6, but on a critical fourth-down play, Mullan’s pass to Suarez was overthrown in the end zone, ending the threat. “We made a bad decision down there,” Antonucci said. “The play call was not great, and we did not put our quarterback in a good situation.” South had another chance to tie the game on its last possession, but facing a fourth-and- 13 on the Freehold 42-yard line, Mullan was forced to heave a desperation pass down the right sideline, which was picked off by junior free safety Damar Bivins. With the stop, Freehold (11-1) locked up its first state championship ever, while the Eagles (10-2) found themselves on the wrong end of a state championship outcome. Antonucci, however, remained as proud of his team as he was when the game began. “They fought right to the end, which is all you can ask,” he said. “We were sloppy through the first half, but in the second half we fought hard.” The Eagles’ ability to nearly overcome the 21-point deficit speaks volumes for the type of adversity this team exhibited throughout the season. “I think they overachieved in some ways this year,” Antonucci said. “They were a good football team, but they just continued to get better as the season progressed.” And with 16 starters coming back, the Eagles will be anxious to get back on the playing field next fall. “Losing guys like [Matt] Martino, Bunge and Mullan will be tough, but we’ve got some good players coming back,” Antonucci said. History doesn’t always repeat itself, as was proved on Saturday. However, it would surprise very few to find Middletown South back in the state title hunt next fall.last_img read more

Last-second field goal lifts Green Wave past Huskies

first_imgBY WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent St. John Vianney High School’s Sam Mulhern (r) attempts to get a piece of a shot from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s Emma Fitzgerald (c) during the Shore Conference Tournament semifinal game held at Holmdel High School on Oct. 24. The Lancers fell to the Bulldogs, 2-1. ERIC SUCAR staff Matawan Regional High School’s football team knows about being on the winning end of decisive field goals, one of them deciding a 3-0 victory over Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School for last year’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship.This time, Matawan’s coaches watched sophomore Vince Mota kick only his second field goal this season, a 35-yarder, with less than one second left after Matawan called a pair of timeouts, which was good and garnered Long Branch High School a 24-21 victory in the Shore Conference B North championship showdown.Coach Dan George said afterward that it was his first victory in 23 years of coaching that was decided on a last-minute field goal. This one just made it inside of the right post. Mota said afterward that he did not know if his kick would make it.A victory could have helped Matawan (5- 2, 4-2) wrap up the division title in its move from A Central. Instead, Long Branch (7-1, 4- 1) can seal at least a share of the division title with a victory over Barnegat High School.Matawan, meanwhile, is done with division games and looking to bounce back on Nov. 2 at New Brunswick High School in its final game at the cutoff to secure a berth and a favorable seed in the state playoffs, where it was moved into Group III this year. Division rival Neptune High School, which beat Matawan, 48-10, is also in that bracket.From the look of things in Long Branch’s locker room afterward, they expect a Matawan victory over New Brunswick will mean a Matawan vs. Long Branch rematch at Long Branch in the opening round as the two middle seeds in the eight-team bracket. Allentown High School and Nottingham High School are expected to be the top two seeds, followed by Neptune. Lakewood High School and Wall High School are further down the bracket.“Our kids battled and we were shorthanded with four freshmen on the field at one time,” said coach John Kaye, who pointed out that Samad Thomas went to the sidelines with an injury suffered in the second quarter. Matawan was also missing injured running back John Alston, who is an uncertainty against New Brunswick.“Our kids will hurt for a day, but they’re resilient and bounce back, look at film and get back to work,” Kaye said. “We’re going to give it all we’ve got and practice hard with a couple of weeks to go and see it we can get back here (for the playoffs).”In a matchup of two teams that pound it on the ground, both avoided turnovers as they held the ball in long drives, waiting for the other team to make a mistake that could lead to a big scoring play. In fact, Long Branch’s field goal came after it went 62 yards in 14 plays to Matawan’s 18-yard line.That drive started when Matawan decided against kicking a field goal with eight minutes left on 4th and 2 Long Branch’s 19- yard line, only to have Kashaun Barnes dropped for a 1-yard loss on the next play.“We were struggling with [kicking] the extra points,” Kaye said. “And we thought if we could get a first down, we could burn a little more off the clock and shorten the game.”Although Dwight Clark sat out with an ankle injury, Long Branch showed it still had running backs who burn, as Joscil Jackson ran 35 yards for a touchdown on the sixth play of the game. Mota’s conversion kick was wide.On its first possession, Matawan used more than 10 minutes of game time in a 20- play drive that covered 76 yards before Barnes plunged a yard into the end zone early in the second quarter. Mike Creamer’s kick made it 7-6.But three plays later, Long Branch’s Deon Williams stiff-armed a Matawan tackler halfway down the field on an 82-yard scoring pass play. Williams ran in the conversion to make it 14-7. Matawan then tied it on a break. Long Branch’s punter took the snap in the end zone and, without hesitation, tried to run it out. He was tackled at the 10-yard line.“We have an option and he made a choice, but it wasn’t a very good choice,” George said.“We have the best specialty coach in the league who played 14 years in the NFL (Jay Bellamy), so they’re not going to fool us. We prepare for things like that,” Kaye said.Dan Incle, who had an outstanding game at linebacker for Matawan, ran eight yards with a shovel pass for a touchdown two plays later with 1:48 left in the first half and Creamer kicked the extra point to deadlock the score, 14-14, at halftime.Long Branch answered with a touchdown off a short field situation of its own, an 8-yard touchdown run by Williams set up by a 42-yard punt return. Mota kicked the extra point for a 21-14 lead.“When you play Matawan, it’s about making the plays and we didn’t do that in the first half,” George said. “In the second half, we made the third down play.”Matawan then drove 61 yards over the next 16 plays, capped by Chris Solomon’s 12-yard touchdown pass from Barnes with 10:17 left. Creamer’s kick tied it to set up the dramatic finish.last_img read more

Keyport heads into postseason behind Thomson’s strong play

first_imgKEYPORT By WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent When teams play Keyport High School’s boys basketball team, they face the daunting challenge of having to cover 6-foot-5 senior guard Alex Thomson as he brings the ball up the court or drives to the basket.Thomson, a four-year starter with over 1,000 points during his career, led the state in scoring earlier this season, and he leads Keyport with 23 points per game. He also leads in rebounds (11.2) and assists (4.9) off his drives and kickouts.“I put a lot of work in the summer to get better ball-handling,” Thompson said. “When I played AAU, I played point guard for a while. I like dishing the ball. I can do a lot of things — dribble, post-up and shoot the threes.”Not bad for a player who has chosen to continue his football career at Wagner College in the fall as a quarterback.“He wants the ball in his hands,” Keyport coach Phil Recco said of Thomson’s drive on the hardwood.With a good supporting cast, Thomson has led Keyport to a 14-8 season and its fourth straight trip to the NJSIAA tournament on March 4, when it traveled to Bound Brook High School for its opening game in the Central Jersey Group I section for the second time in three years. Keyport also qualified for the Shore Conference Tournament for the second straight year.“We have a lot of experience, but we don’t go deep on the bench,” Recco said of the team’s success, which surpasses last year’s 12-10 record.The tight rotation is just enough for the Red Raiders. In a 72-48 victory at Immaculata High School on Feb. 25 in a seasonending pickup game to prepare for the tournament, Thomson scored 28 points, but senior guard Ezra Hill tossed in another 15 points and junior guard Jeff Sheard, known more for his defensive quickness, added 11. Keyport led, 35-19, at halftime.Keyport had one of its best starts to the season in many years at 9-2, but then the team went into a tough part of the schedule, losing twice to powerhouse Point Pleasant Beach High School by wide margins. Travis Alvarez, a 6-foot-2 sophomore center, is the second-leading scorer at 8.6 points per game, and he has grabbed nine rebounds a game and has 60 blocked shots. Alvarez is followed closely by 6-foot senior forward Kevin Walsh, whose long-range proficiency has led to 8.5 points per game, and Hill, who scores 8.1 points a game. Recco said Alvarez “really improved his game. He got stronger and more confident. He has good post moves.” “We have three sophomores who played varsity, and now they’re seniors and have played together for four years,” Thomson said. “The chemistry was always there. And we’re still young with a lot of talent.”Recco said Keyport plays an up-anddown the-floor game like Bound Brook, working the ball for open shots.“Defense is big for us,” Thomson said.Recco said his team has lost some of its bounce from the drain of playing that style with a thin bench in a long season.“We’re starting to wear out, and that concerns me,” Recco said. “We have tired legs, so I’m hoping for productivity off the bench.”Recco said turnovers have gone up in recent weeks, which “needs to be addressed.”Only two players have contributed off the bench — junior guard Anthony Fernandez and 6-foot-2 sophomore forward Zack Ochs.The team will need a little more depth against Bound Brook, which likes to pressure the ball on defense and then go up-tempo.But then there’s Thomson, who has shown the determination to do whatever it takes to extend the Red Raiders’ season.last_img read more

Trabzonspor end Apollon’s European dream

first_imgBy Nemanja BjedovOlcan Adin’s hat-trick ensured Trabzonspor could see off a late comeback from Apollon and secure a place in Europa’s round of 32 on Thursday night. The hosts ended the visitors’ European dreams with a 4-2 victory in the fifth round of Group J at the Hüseyin Avni Aker Stadium.There were few chances in the early stages of the match, but the hosts were clinical when they eventually got going, as Olcan Adin and Soner Aydoğdu scored in quick succession midway through the first half.Florent Malouda looked bright on the left, and it was the former French international who provided the cross for Adin to head in the opener. The hosts doubled their lead before Apollon had a chance to get their breath back, scoring three minutes later after Aydoğdu bundled the ball in.Adin extended the Turkish side’s lead in the 61st minute by firing into the roof of the net, before Guie Gneki Abraham netted a header for the visitors seven minutes later.Abraham then won a penalty 12 minutes later which was converted by Gaston Sangoy to reduce Apollon’s deficit to 3-2 and for a moment it looked like the Cypriot national cup holders are threatening a comeback. That was until Adin rounded off his hat-trick with a brilliant free kick in the 83rd minute.Trabzonspor lead Group J by two points, and will battle Lazio for top spot when the two sides meet in the final round of the group stage, after the Italian side beat Legia Warszawa 2-0 away from home.After this defeat Apollon remain in third place with four points from five matches, and without any chance of progressing into the knock-out stage.last_img read more

Omonia and AEK in search of 2014 resurrection

first_imgBy Nemanja BjedovOMONIA’S newly-appointed coach Miguel Angel Lotina is anxious to make his debut on the bench against Apollon on Sunday (3pm), despite his official paperwork having not yet arrived, according to the Spanish Football Association.AEK meanwhile will try to build on two straight wins when they face APOEL on Saturday (3pm) at the GSZ Stadium in Larnaca.“I have many players available here and from my experience I know that it is difficult to make quality players sign in January. I am not sure yet if we will have any players coming because I have watched my new team play only two or three times and I still need to see all the players in action,” said Lotina.Omonia are currently fifth with 30 points, level with Ermis Aradippou in third and APOEL in fourth, but below them in the standings due to an inferior head to head record. Their opponents Apollon are in second place with 32 points, two points behind league leaders AEL.“We all know how good Apollon are at the moment and we all know what we need to do to win. We went through a week of high quality training sessions, because our main objective is to win the next two games, first Apollon and then AEL next week. I personally do not feel any pressure, but what I do want is for my team to play beautiful football,” he added.After the Judicial Committee of the Cyprus Football Association accepted AEK’s appeal against the December 23 decision to play their next match behind closed doors due to the unsportsmanlike behaviour of their players and high number of bookings in the game against Doxa Katokopia on December 14, the official AEK supporters group made a statement.“Only united can we go forward. Our team won its second consecutive game for the first time this season with our help.“Our presence at the Dasaki Stadium in the last round was the catalyst for a new beginning. Our players, coaching staff and our committee give everything they have to set this new AEK on the right track.“We must follow their steps and make sure that APOEL does not feel at home at the GSZ on Saturday,” the statement included.Elsewhere, on Saturday at 5pm Aris take on AEK Kouklion, while on Sunday at the same time Ermis Aradippou host Doxa Katokopias.AEL face Enosis Neon Paralimni at 6pm at the Tsirion Stadium in Limassol, while at the same time Anorthosis meet Alki in a minor Larnaca derby.In the final Round 16 game on Monday evening at 7pm, Nea Salamina host Ethnikos Achnas at the Ammochostos Stadium in Larnaca.last_img read more

Baghdatis beaten by Robredo in St. Petesburg

first_imgBy Andreas VouMarcos Baghdatis was knocked out in the second round of the St. Petersburg Open on Thursday in convincing fashion at the hands of Tommy Robredo, 7-6, 6-1.The Limassol native came into the match on the back of Tuesday’s first round win against Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis.Baghdatis hit seven aces and took advantage of four of 15 break opportunities en route to a two hour and nine minute victory in what was his first outing since the US Open.Baghdatis started his second match brightly, breaking the Spaniard in the opening exchanges and looked to be headed towards a one-set lead.However, the Cypriot lost his concentration at the worst possible moment, being broken as he was serving for the set, which he eventually lost on the tie-break.Following the disappointment of the first set, Baghdatis capitulated in the second, as he offered little resistance to bring an end to the match.In doubles action on Wednesday, Baghdatis paired up with Greek-Australian teen star Thanasi Kokkinakis but lost 1-6, 7-5, 10-4 to Teymuraz Gabashvili and Ricardas Berankis.last_img read more

Ronaldo under scrutiny after Real flop in Sevilla

first_imgBy Iain RogersCristiano Ronaldo was under intense scrutiny on Monday after he again failed to spark in Real Madrid’s surprise 3-2 La Liga defeat at Sevilla that left them trailing leaders Barcelona by three points.With the November 21 ‘Clasico’ at home to champions Barca looming, Ronaldo’s goal drought has set alarm bells ringing in the capital, particularly with France striker Karim Benzema sidelined by injury and beset by legal problems.At Sevilla’s Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, Ronaldo was a shadow of the player who has rattled in more than 40 goals in three of his six seasons in Spain, including 48 last term.It is little wonder that reports have again appeared suggesting the 30-year-old Portugal forward might seek an exit at the end of the season.At first glance, Ronaldo’s numbers appear eminently respectable, with eight goals in 11 La Liga appearances and five in four Champions League outings.However, he netted five of those La Liga goals in one game, against an abject Espanyol, and discounting those he has made his worst start to a La Liga campaign since his debut season in 2009-10.On Sunday, Ronaldo struggled to connect with team-mates, appeared to lash out at one point at an opponent and in one attack selfishly tried to score himself when Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and James Rodriguez were all better placed.As he trudged off the pitch, he appeared to be complaining bitterly to Sergio Ramos and his overall performance suggested something is very wrong with the three-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner.Jorge Valdano, a former Real player and coach, said Ronaldo was suffering because of new coach Rafa Benitez’s decision to deploy him in a more central attacking role.“As far as I understand it, Cristiano would prefer to play coming in off the left wing,” Valdano told Cadena Ser on Monday.“But he has had to adapt, above all because of the absence of Benzema,” added the former Argentina international.“With Ronaldo you always have to look at his body language and he is not happy.“Whether that’s because he is not scoring goals, or he is not playing in his position we don’t know. But what we can see is that he is not enjoying his football.”Whatever is ailing Ronaldo, Benitez needs him back on top form for Barca’s visit otherwise Real could find themselves six points adrift of their arch rivals.last_img read more