Levante 2 - 3 Real Madrid: Los Blancos Win In Spite Of Themselves

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso

Madrid get the win in the final minute of extra-time through Cristiano Ronaldo.

Real Madrid's starting XI: Diego; Arbeloa-Varane-Ramos-Coentrão; Khedira-Modric; Di María-Isco-Cristiano; Benzema

The First Half & The Line-up

Ancelotti's line-up choices were conservative against a team widely expected to defend in numbers. A generous observer would note that Levante, since their opening day humiliation against Barcelona, had been on the ascendancy coming into this match, so caution in a difficult, hostile stadium was understandable. Madrid had won only one of its last four visits in bizarre, water-polo conditions, after all. But against a team expected to sit back it was not a very inventive line-up.

And if Ancelotti had guessed that Levante would not be sitting back to defend as expected, his scouting was correct. Levante were, for most of the first half, the team most in control of the match. It took Real Madrid fifteen minutes to create any serious threat in Levante's half of the pitch after a choppy, stop-start to the game. This brought its own problems though, as a lack of attacking creativity, especially on the wings, meant Madrid were not really able to play well in any way - not able to effectively build up play, not able to counter-attack at speed.

A line-up, in short, that did not seem designed to do anything well.

The teams headed into the break at 0-0 - a fair reflection, from Real Madrid's point of view, of an uninspired showing.

The Second Half & 5 Goals

From a neutral's perspective - almost the perfect half of football with 5 goals.

Levante, dominant in the first half, began the second in the same fashion and scored (not unexpectedly) before Sergio Ramos equalized after Marcelo's inclusion added some much-needed invention. Levante scored, frankly, a golazo through Nabil El Zhar before Morata (on for Isco) and Cristiano Ronaldo both scored - the former in the final minute and the latter in the final minute of extra-time.

Cristiano Ronaldo had not had a particularly good game to that point. As usual with this player, it didn't matter.

Match Observations

Ancelotti ended with a line-up he might have started with - the excellent and in-form Marcelo for Coentrão to bring some attacking flair and with Alvaro Morata on the pitch - a striker better suited to matching up against Levante's centrebacks in a scrappy match than Karim Benzema (ultimately substituted out for Jese).

Nevertheless, a last-minute win should not disguise a shaky performance or the fact the team continues to struggle creating from open play.

There can be a lazy tendency to blame players for generally poor games - from the fans, from the press. But Alvaro Arbeloa, Sami Khedira, Karim Benzema, Isco, Angel Di María and Fabio Coentrão are all objectively good (in some cases brilliant) players. This was a poor selection of great players in combination with each other. Some minor tweaking of the line-up could have made some considerable difference in this match and winning (or at least effective) combinations of Madrid's objectively good players are the least we might expect from the coach.

It does these players no good to have them lined up in ways that don't suit them, requiring substitutions and last minute goals that reek of desperation.

A great game to watch, in some ways, but plenty of food for thought.

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