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Immediate Reaction: Apoel Nicosia 0 - 6 Real Madrid

Just what Real Madrid needed — a confidence booster before hosting Malaga on Saturday

Real Madrid destroy Apoel 0-6 (Modric, Benzema x2, Nacho, Ronaldo x2), thoroughly picking apart a disastrously bad defensive line. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.

“What do you think would be a perfect recipe to get Benzema and Ronaldo their confidence back, Mister?” A fictional journalists asks Zidane in this fake story I’m writing instead of watching the second half. As he ponders his response, Zidane takes a sip of his whisky, puts his glass down, and paints a picture in the sky with his hands.

“I want to face an open defense,” The Frenchman says. “A team with zero awareness of defensive compactness, a complete inability to clear the ball properly, and a team that doesn’t understand how to mark...”

“A team so bad,” he continued. “...That it will make us completely forget about Cultural Leonesa last season”.

Zidane got his wish. In a match where Real Madrid made nine unforced, misplaced passes in the first 15 minutes; they eventually grew into the game, dominated possession, and scored six goals — four of them coming in the first half alone, and all four of those completely unimpeded. Luka Modric’s first goal was a brilliant shot after a lackadaisical clearance fell to him. Benzema’s first goal was a neat near-post finish after he took advantage of a gorgeous (yet unopposed) through-pass from Kroos in a wide-open channel. On Real Madrid’s third goal, Nacho was left unmarked. Benzema’s second goal was much like his first — a vertical dagger from Kroos went through Apoel because Apoel wasn’t even there in the first place.

In the second half, it was more of the same. After Cristiano Ronaldo met Marcelo’s cross to make it 0-5; he was gifted this:

The match continued with APOEL going into damage-control mode. Real Madrid were comfortable, and, while they searched for more goals, they were happy to go through the motions.

From Kiyan’s notepad

  • I would’ve liked to have seen Dani Ceballos start this match, given Zidane had opted to rest Casemiro and Isco. He could have slid in for Lucas Vazquez and dropped a bit deeper while Asensio played in a more advanced role. That said, Lucas was good tonight. No complaints, really, in hindsight.
  • This was a 4-3-3 on paper with Asensio in the midfield trio, but it unfolded as a 4-4-2 with Kroos and Modric as a double-pivot and Lucas and Asensio on the flanks. It also morphed in-game, too, with Asensio having a lot of freedom to roam through channels.
  • The misplaced passes still worry me. The half-time score probably flattered Real Madrid, given how sloppy they were in possession to start and how badly Apoel wanted to get penetrated. Still, this is almost exactly what the team needed — a stat-padding confidence booster that can help get the team back on track. Hopefully the good things from this game carry over, while some of the miscues get fleshed out and stay in Cyprus.
  • Carvajal and Varane both fantastic defensively, again.
  • Tottenham came back from a goal down to win 1-2 away to Dortmund, meaning the group is theirs to top. Real Madrid will finish second, which, is much more precarious than finishing second last season given the boost in quality in this year’s European opponents. The team needs to rev into its extra gear soon.

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