Real Madrid were not entirely convincing over two legs against AS Roma, and there are many things they need to improve on if they are to make a deep run into the last competition they can fight for. Zidane's defensive scheme is gaping still, and it's tough to see this team get away so easily against Barcelona or Bayern Munich should that draw present itself.
Yet, Real Madrid were efficient, and they march forward. Here are three things we noted..
- Luka Modric put in a filthy performance. His intricate passing and dribbling out of closed spaces set Real Madrid's tempo. It's unfortunate that players as aesthetically pleasing as Luka are so rare. Equally unfortunate - science has not figured a way to clone him, yet.
Lukita's dashboard on the night: 3 successful tackles, 3 successful take-ons, 2 interceptions, 57/63 completed passes.
Toni Kroos seemed to thrive alongside Modric in an advanced position, enjoying a bit more freedom with Casemiro behind him. Kroos is a highly incisive offensive player who rarely gets to showcase his talents going forward. He had a few misplaced passes tonight - but nothing to get concerned about. Tonight we saw the Bayern version of Kroos - the one who feels comfortable venturing forward and even take a shot from outside the box.
Having said that, relieving Kroos from the defensive midfield role didn't solve the team's defensive collapses, and Casemiro - while working diligently and making some key tackles - generally looked lost in the defensive scheme and Real Madrid's transitional defense was still horrific.
- Three cheers for Lucas Vasquez - the man I love hating on. While Gareth Bale acted as the team's best offensive player and chief attacking instigator, he left the pitch in the 61st minute (presumably still recovering towards 100% match fitness), and was replaced by a very much in-form Lucas Vasquez.
It was Vasquez who unlocked this match, receiving the ball on the right side, coaxing his defender into covering a pass to Modric who stood as decoy, scissored the ball twice and crossed it in to an on-rushing Ronaldo for Real Madrid's first goal.
On an ensuing counter, his flawless pass found Ronaldo in on-goal. That should've been his 2nd assist of the night - it wasn't, Ronaldo missed a chance he normally buries.
- Somehow, ever since Jese scored in Rome, Real Madrid managed to be careless in defense without any concern of the consequences of conceding a goal. If you're up 2-0 on aggregate, conceding to a 2-1 could be tie-shifting, and Real Madrid were, quite frankly, incredible lucky that Roma weren't clinical enough to take advantage of the space they were given by Zidane's men.
Marcelo was a defensive liability from the first minute at the Stadio Olimpico, and if not for Ramos, Varane, and Casemiro saving the day on various occasions throughout the two legs, the outcome of this aggregate could've swung in a disastrous way. This game was screaming for Fabio Coentrao - a player who could make a living staying home defensively, staying in front of Salah, and being more meticulous with his attacks.