Zinedine Zidane will be a happy man to see his team still leading the pack. However, when the teams in question were compared in paper; it was number one vs number 20 (Osasuna sit last in the table). One team could boast of an unbeaten 40 match streak and the other had tasted victory just once this season. With that thought, what Real Madrid put up was nothing short of a lackluster performance.
Zidane’s men might have got the three vital points which ensured that Real Madrid were Liga leaders closing this week as well, but all credit to Osasuna who looked very dangerous in the first half and made Madrid work very hard for the win.
Zidane unloaded his team with a head scratcher 3-5-2 formation, deploying Danilo and Marcelo as fullbacks and paired the duo of Karim and Ronaldo upfront.
Madrid attempted to put pressure on Osasuna by scoring an early goal courtesy of Benzema as early as on the 5th minute. But, the French forward hit a decent volley just wide of the post.
In the early goings, Osasuna enjoyed a fair bit of possession, with Jaime Romero and Alex Berenguer looking to deal damage.
Osasuna defender Tano suffered a freak injury in the 15th minute. Whilst Tano engaged in a routine 50-50 challenge with Isco, the Spaniard ended up bending his leg backwards, breaking it in two places.
It was Cristiano Ronaldo who, after being played in by Benzema, scored Madrid’s first and his third consecutive goal in 3 matches in the 24th minute. The reigning Ballon d’Or winner’s angled shot proved to be too hot to handle for Sirigu.
Osasuna looked good themselves in the opening minutes and they found the equalizer within nine minutes of Ronaldo’s goal. Sergio Leon was played in behind by Juan Rafael Fuentes’ long ball and beat Navas with ease.
Almost after Osasuna’s equalizer, it was Karim Benzema who was beautifully set up by Ronaldo to restore the lead, but only for Sirigu to make a point blank save to deny the Frenchman.
After Benzema, it was Ronaldo’s turn to waste a scoring opportunity after having done so well to get in the position. The Portuguese’s left-footer sent the ball flying in the crowd after Benzema played him up, much to the amusement of the El Sadar.
Navas did well to keep out a low strike from Vujadinovic as Osasuna refused to back down and fought to take the lead.
Osasuna were surely kicking themselves at halftime for failing to exploit the space available in behind the Real Madrid backline for a goal. Real Madrid seemed far too stretched for their defensive game plan to function.
Osasuna showed no signs of rest as they committed men forward and started their attack from the start of the second half. It was Navas once again, who came to Madrid’s rescue by denying a swinging effort by Sergio Leon which seemed certain to go inside.
Real Madrid tried to force a breakthrough with Marcelo evading a couple of challenges and setting up Benzema through on the left, only for the Frenchman to be bundled off for a goal kick.
Danilo seemed to pick up a nasty injury and had to be stretchered off the field following a challenge by Garcia. It was an unfortunate sight to witness people who call themselves fans of Real Madrid to express delight in Danilo’s injury.
It was Isco who got the lead for Real Madrid. Isco’s extraordinary anticipatory skills allowed him to pounce on the loose ball after Benzema was dispossessed in the area to make it 2-1 for Real Madrid.
Isco was one of the better Real Madrid players on the pitch, although he could have been more influential in the attack in the first half, had he not been stuck in defensive duty.
With James coming in for the injured Danilo, Madrid seemed to power forward with a 4-4-2 formation. James first attempt at finding Ronaldo with his through-ball was judged offside.
Benzema came off for Lucas Vazquez in the 73rd minute, which was quite surprising considering Morata was available and hungry for game time. However, Vazquez, too, had his own unique capabilities of being able to carry the ball up the pitch and relieve the pressure on his teammates closer to goal.
Real Madrid seemed to have a change in their formation again. With Benzema subbed off, it was Ronaldo who was the lone striker for Real Madrid. Meanwhile, Vasquez and James were operating in wide positions and Isco sat a little deep.
Around the 78th minute, Ronaldo and Ramos both in quick succession failed to convert their opportunities into goals. Ronaldo’s toe-poked finish was denied by Sirigu. Following the resulting corner, Ramos headed the ball wide.
Ronaldo was brought down by Garcia in the box, after the latter’s arm caught Ronaldo. The referee was less than interested as he waived away the penalty claim.
The final substitution for Real Madrid was Kovacic. The Croatian was welcomed with a chorus of boos by the frustrated home crowd as he replaced Isco in the dying minutes of the game.
Real Madrid scored their third goal in injury time to make it 3-1, courtesy of a goal by Lucas Vazquez who was played in by Marcelo. Some credit of the goal should go to Ronaldo as well for his role in cleverly leaving the ball for Lucas when the defender was least expecting it; thereby freeing up Lucas. Osasuna shot-stopper Sirigu had no answer for Lucas’ cheeky chipped attempt which found the back of net.
1) All in all, not a convincing win for Real Madrid. The scoreline might read three goals to one, but being leaders of La Liga, Real Madrid were still made to work very hard for the three points by the last on the table.
2) Had it not been for Navas’ impressive performance, Real Madrid would have conceded more goals than just one.
3) Ronaldo has looked really fine in the past few games.
4) Benzema should definitely do better after getting opportunities after opportunities over the forgotten Morata.
5) James coming in opened the game wide and to an extent freed up the midfield. James may not be a regular feature, but he can still give a lot to Real Madrid.
6) Isco with his performance tonight might have just booked a place in the starting line-up against Napoli.
7) Real Madrid are better off without the 3-5-2 for now, at least. The players are clearly unable to produce what their coach wants from them.