Player Ratings: Real Madrid vs. Elche, La Liga 2013-2014

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

The game got off to a slow start as Elche defended well, but Los Blancos exerted their will on the match and earned a 3-0 victory that'll be remembered for a wonder strike by Gareth Bale.

Madridistas! Before delving into today's player ratings, I think it'd be helpful if I explain my personal grading scale to give you a better idea of why each player earned his particular grade. Since each person brings a different perspective and set of expectations to his/her evaluation of players, I'd like to establish my key to at least provide you with some context.

PEDRO'S GRADING CRITERIA

A range: in order to earn an A, the player must have an impact that goes above and beyond the basic responsibilities associated with his position. Context and timing are taken into consideration. For example, an attacker who scores a game-winning goal or a defender who clears the ball off the line in the second half to guarantee his side a victory will earn an A for directly impacting the outcome of a match. Of course, not every player will have the opportunity to showcase individual moments of game-winning brilliance, but he can certainly earn an A- for an outstanding game characterized by little to no mistakes.

B range: in order to earn a grade in the B range, a player must put in a solid, dependable performance in which he helps the team and commits few mistakes. He may contribute an assist, an important clearance or a strong defensive shift, but if his overall influence on the game is subdued in comparison to other players, he will earn a B as a mark reflecting a positive though not exceptional performance.

C range: if a player earns a C, this means he played below his potential and compromised the team with risky mistakes or a general lack of involvement. For example, if a player is consistently dispossessed in dangerous areas, struggles to link-up with teammates and create plays, loses his marker due to lack of focus, etc., this player would receive a grade somewhere in the C range.

D range: hopefully no player ever receives a D grade. This would mean he effectively did something (or failed to do something) in such a blatant and heinous way that it led to an opposition victory and he failed to provide any redeeming factors to at least earn a C-.

PLAYER RATINGS

Diego López: B+ the goalkeeper was rarely tested in this match as Real Madrid enjoyed the bulk of possession. Whenever danger reared its ugly head in Madrid's area, López turned it away with ease.

Carvajal: B+ the right back once again demonstrated his remarkable stamina as he sprinted up and down the wing and even tried for goal on a few occasions. He was unlucky not to score after a great pass from Isco late in the second half.

Pepe: B+ the Portuguese defender donned the captain's armband tonight and put in another solid shift considering Elche struggled to create many goal-scoring opportunities. He only committed one foul- a lunging tackle that earned him a yellow card.

Varane: B+ the future of Real Madrid's back line returned to the starting line-up and delivered a composed and controlled performance that kept Elche at bay. Varane easily checked a counter-attack from Coro in the second half to prevent the Elche striker from getting a shot off.

Arbeloa: B+ the Spanish international did a fine job filling in for Marcelo at left back and even attempted some marauding runs down the left wing that ended with crosses into the box. While his defense was rock solid, he was lucky not to get booked for some scrappy fouls.

Alonso: B Xabi played a solid game overall but suffered several rough challenges that made it difficult for him to dictate the tempo of the match. He attempted a free kick that bounced off Elche's wall and was subbed off for Casemiro in the 82nd minute after Madrid went ahead 3-0.

Illaramendi: A the heir to Xabi Alonso's throne looked focused and assertive from the get-go. The former Sociedad man oozed confidence in his actions, from shielding the ball to supporting the defense until he opened the scoreline by netting Real Madrid's first goal off a deflected shot from outside the box. While the deflection tricked the keeper, Illara deserves credit for going for goal from that position. He trusted his instincts and it paid off.

Di María: A- the reborn midfielder proved to be Madrid's best playmaker in the first half with penetrative runs, crosses and shot attempts during a period in which the rest of the team looked largely stagnant. One of his corner kicks almost curled into goal and he created more key passes than anyone in the side with 4 (source: whoscored). Ancelotti has excelled in getting the best out of ADM and the player naturally deserves credit for putting together a string of consistently great performances since moving to center midfield.

Bale: A- as in previous games, Bale got off to a slow start and struggled to get involved as the bulk of Madrid's play took place down the left flank and middle of the park. Then, in the 71st minute, the real Gareth Bale revealed himself. Accepting a lateral pass from Xabi Alonso outside the box, the Welsh Wizard picked his head up, saw an opportunity and blasted the ball into the top corner. The goal was absolutely stunning in its power and accuracy, and it will surely go down as one of Bale's most memorable goals this season.

Jesé: B- the Cantera prodigy lacked his usual effectiveness in this match as his penetrative runs down the flanks often resulted in dispossession or misplaced passes. He was brought down outside the area in what looked to be a promising goal-scoring opportunity and his best action all game. Jesé helped the team on defense but ultimately fell short in his attacking contributions.

Benzema: A- Madrid's striker worked hard all night and constantly tested the keepers with shots and headers from wide crosses. While he left the pitch without a goal to his name, he can claim an assist on Isco's goal. All in all, the Frenchman is enjoying a fine run of form.

SUBSTITUTES:

Isco: A Spain's young starlet was the definition of efficiency today as he netted a goal and contributed two key passes in the span of 16 minutes. While Isco's role has shifted this season from starter to that of a super-sub, he remains an incredibly valuable piece of Madrid's puzzle given his ability to crack open a game with his incisive passing and eye for goal. This quality was visibly on display tonight.

Morata: B+ the young striker played roughly ten minutes but almost managed a goal after an impressive 50-yard run with defenders breathing down his neck. While his playing time has diminished drastically this season, Morata's performance tonight exemplified his never-give-up attitude and work ethic.

Casemiro: N/A the Brazilian replaced Xabi Alonso in the 83rd minute and wasn't able to influence the match.

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