In a fairly one-sided UEFA Super Cup clash between Real Madrid and Sevilla, both sides generated their best attacks in wide areas. Sevilla's main threat stemmed down the left flank, while Madrid's offence varied as they possess the two best wide players in world football.
The pattern of the match was clear from the opening kick-off with Madrid dominating possession, while Unai Emery instructed his men to drop into two narrow banks of four, with the two attackers blocking off Luka Modric and Toni Kroos' passing lanes.
Sevilla's approach was effective in the opening minutes, as the reigning Europa League champions forced Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo into audacious efforts from distance. While the likelihood of Sevilla's attackers remaining disciplined in limiting Madrid's midfielders was slim, it took Ronaldo 13 minutes to find an alternative, as the Portuguese forward fancied individual battles with Coke.
Madrid's best moves developed down the left, with Ronaldo playing an integral role. First, the 29-year-old stormed past Coke before playing a pass to James, which nearly saw Bale direct the Colombian's cross past Beto. Then, Fabio Coentrao combined with his compatriot and drove towards the byline, but Fazio nodded his looping cross away from safety.
Likewise, Ronaldo's opener was created on the left side as well, but the Portuguese forward's determination was equally impressive. Subsequent to switching the play to James, Ronaldo galloped into space behind Fernando Navarro - while the defender jogged back - and continued his unmarked run into the box to confidently direct Bale's immaculate cross past Beto.
Although Sevilla's sporadically tested Madrid's back-line, apart from a risky James clearance - which resulted in Daniel Carrico forcing Iker Casillas into a save from six yards out - Emery's men posed problems for right-back Dani Carvajal.
The Spanish right-back's poor pass to Bale ignited a counter-attack that was cynically halted by Pepe. Afterwards, he cheaply conceded possession in his half to Aleix Vidal, who slithered past Pepe into the box before testing Casillas.
Suddenly, Carvajal's difficulties impacted Vitolo's movement, as he drifted from central areas into the left channel to drift past the right back, but the Spaniard delivered a poor cross into the box. Then, he received a long diagonal ball at the edge of the box, successfully holding off Carvajal before linking play with Suarez who skipped past the 22-year-old and earned a corner.
Ultimately, Sevilla's attacking predicament rested on their languid transitions on the counter, and a lack of quality in the final third. Emery's side drifted into key areas in the final third, but their decision-making along with the quality of their final balls disrupted attacks.
Madrid's secondary threat stemmed through Kroos, who slotted into a deep-lying role for the suspended Xabi Alonso. Kroos was exceptional throughout the match, drifting into space to receive the ball and efficiently igniting attacks with his proficient passing.
According to whoscored.com, Kroos completed a match-high 82 passes, while recording a 96 per-cent completion rate, as he instantly settled into the Madrid midfield despite his minimal involvement in preseason.
"Toni Kroos' performance was perfect," Ancelotti told reporters after the game. "He was quick and clear in everything he did.
The German not only retained possession, but he provided a hint of penetration with his forward passes.
Kroos' long diagonal to Karim Benzema created a glorious opportunity that Ronaldo surprisingly missed. The 24-year-old picked up a loose ball and threaded a pass to Benzema between the lines in the buildup to Ronaldo's second goal, and he also found Bale drifting into a pocket of space, before the Welshman slid Ronaldo free on goal. However, Grzegorz Krychowiak's fantastic tackle prevented the Portuguese forward from increasing the lead.
Madrid dropped deeper in the second half following Ronaldo's second goal, and was keen on breaking on the counter. Bale received more space to influence the match in transition, while Sevilla encountered the same issues in the final third.
The gulf in class between the two sides was evident on the night, but this was about Real's domination in wide areas and Kroos' immediate impact.