Real Madrid's young, makeshift team which featured a shuffled lineup to compensate missing seven of its best players was just enough to keep an avant-garde Sevilla side from getting their hands on the UEFA Super Cup. Here are some notes I took from an ever-changing notepad in what was a rollercoaster of a match.
When Real Madrid rolled out tonight's lineup prior to kick-off, it was completely uncharted territory, and it was super exciting. Here was a team that was missing arguably it's seven most important players, and still managed to put out a team with Asensio, Morata, Kovacic, Vasquez, and Isco - with James on the bench. Now that's depth for you, for all those concerned about this team being thin.
As fun as that line-up was, the reality is that it's completely raw, and even against a new-look Sevilla side that needs time to form some cohesiveness, Zidane's starting eleven today showed how unfamiliar it was. After an energetic start, the team was subdued by design. Without the ball, Real Madrid played a 4-5-1 with Morata as the highest player up the pitch, morphing into a quick counter-attack when the ball was retained - with Kovacic being the instigator of many of those offensive bursts.
But Real Madrid looked more focused defensively than they were of adding to their one-goal lead, which is understandable, given the makeshift lineup that Zidane had to put out. Nevertheless, it did allowed Sevilla to grow into the game, conjure up over 60% possession, and eventually score a couple goals to wake Real Madrid up.
Let's talk about a couple of Real Madrid's standout players, Mateo Kovacic and Marco Asensio. Up until mid-way through the 2nd half, when Kovacic was subbed for James Rodriguez and Asensio started to tire, those two really made the team click. Asensio's goal was other-worldly, and aside from that, his decisiveness was really impressive, as was his quick passing and ability to create from the left. Kovacic's performance was really encouraging too, given that he's been out of the depth chart for so long despite clearly having a bright future as a footballer. He dissected Sevilla with some slick through-balls tonight.
In a very rare sight, Zidane had his wing-backs stay home for most of the night. Both Marcelo and Carvajal barely crossed the half-way line until the team realized that it desperately needed a goal. Without doubt, this decision had a lot to do with the team that was put out tonight. Once the wing-backs started pushing forward, Real Madrid pounced on a back-pedalling Sevilla. Marcelo started causing problems on the left - particularly with James who had a nice game off the bench - and Carvajal was linking really well with Lucas Vasquez on the right. Of course, it was timely of Sevilla's defense to take a break from football just as the full-moon struck and Carvajal transformed into Maradona.
-Morata did his best to hold up the ball and create space for Vasquez and Asensio, but overall struggled to find his feet, and his integration into the team will take time. Have patience with him.
- Up until his mis-clearance that led to Sevilla's first goal, Varane was playing terrific at the back, and as a whole, did well to make interceptions and snuff out Sevilla's attacks.
- Once Ramos' career is finished, we will have to categorize it into two parts: 1) Sergio Ramos the inconsistent defender; 2) Sergio Ramos, the behemoth that scores from headers. What he is as a footballer is almost surreal.
- Tonight, Casemiro manifested the good and bad of his Real Madrid career in one match. On one hand, he anchored the midfield and won balls outside of the area, and on the other, he lunged in, got burned in key areas, and dribbled into defenders.