Even though you know what a game of two halves looks like, it can still surprise you how much different those two halves can be. This was exactly the case with Juvenil today. First half was bad, really bad. Passing was sloppy, there was lack of movement from the front players, players didn't cope well with Monaco's pressing and physicality. As Zidane would put it - we lacked intensity. But you don't have to take my word for it, let's see what Guti though of the first half.
Our first half was shit despite the unfortunate penalty...
Apart from couple of minutes right after the kick off, Juvenil was outmuscled and outclassed by Monaco in the first half. Monaco's U19 side resembles their senior team in many aspects. They have physically strong and fast players in almost every position and they possess deadly counter attacks. Juvenil really struggled with this and it did show in 15th minute, when Manu was outraced by Monaco player, who went 1v1 vs Luca Zidane. Thankfully Luca Zidane saved his shot. And this wasn't a fluke chance, Monaco time and time again created similar chances and Luca Zidane was very busy. In the 24th minute, a penalty was called against Juvenil. It was a very harsh call, because there no little to none contact between the players.
Sadly, this goal had no positive impact on Juvenil players. Centre of the pitch was the main problem. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that Seoane started over Martín Calderón. He isn't better than the latter and this change also prompted a switch in formation. We played with double pivot consisting of Seoane, who was atrocious, and Óscar, who had a subpar game also. Seoane's positioning was truly horrendous. He was supposed to be the defensive midfielder, but didn't stay back and occupy the space in front of the defenders, instead he frequently roamed from his position. This left big holes in the midfield, which Monaco successfully exploited.
In the 33th minute, whole defence was caught sleeping after clearing the ball. Monaco played a quick low cross into the box and scored. 2-0.
Things were looking really bad for Juvenil. Not only because their midfield and defence were looking like a Swiss cheese, but also because they didn't really create any meaningful chances. Valverde's long shot and Diaz's shot were the only Juvenil's chances in the first half. Also Valverde's, Achraf's and Luca Zidane's performances were the only positive signs from this half.
Changes were needed and it was obvious to everybody. Mink Peeters, who came on for Óscar, started warming up around the 35min mark. I'm not sure if this was a tactical change. Óscar is the first man on Guti's lineup and he was far from the worst performer on the pitch. Nonetheless, Mink and Dani Gomez (ST) came on at HT and Óscar and Alberto were taken off.
Second half started and it looked as if Guti fielded a completely new team. Valverde was finally moved to his best position - defensive midfielder. He sat deep, while Seoane was a bit higher, and Mink occupied the right wing. Mink, however, also drifted a lot into the central areas and nicely linked midfield with attack. Dani Gomez help Sergio Diaz with those strong French centre backs. Those changes had immediate impact. Our overall game improved leaps and bounds, passing was finally crisper and we recovered defensive solidity. Juvenil were quickly rewarded for their renewed enthusiasm. In the 56th minute, Franchu made his classic run down the left side, used his trademark skill to beat his defender and pulled it back for Mink, who finished the move. 2-1.
Then 10 minutes later a penalty was called for Juvenil after a little contact between Sergio Diaz and Monaco's defender. Sergio stepped up and calmly converted it. 22 minutes into the second half and things were looking pretty good for Juvenil and even Guti showed his emotions.
Juvenil didn't slow down and kept hammering Monaco. Suddenly Monaco players seemed sluggish and Juvenil players were flying on the pitch. And Monaco's defenders started to make amateur mistakes, like at 3rd Juvenil's goal scored by Dani Gomez. Monaco's defender totally misjudged the trajectory of the ball from Valverde and Sergio released Dani Gomez on goal, who converted this big chance.
However, Juvenil's intensity did drop off in the last 10 minutes of the match. Monaco put number of players forward and were seeking the equaliser that would put the tie straight to penalty shootout. Luca Zidane was once again forced into really impressive saves and defenders had to made last ditch tackles and blocks to keep Juvenil in the lead. Monaco's dangerous counters appeared again and Franchu had to take one for the team, when they were heading into 3v1 situation. He took down Monaco's forward from behind. It was a straight red card and Franchu was content with it and didn't voice any protest at all. It was a stressful and nervous end to the match. You could hear Guti asking the 4th official how much extra time referee will add. The answer shocked Guti - 6 minutes. He couldn't believe it. While he was still processing this information, Mink made that information irrelevant. He was in the right time in the right place and sealed the victory.
Monaco in the end did manage to score another goal in the extra time from a nice free kick, but Juvenil held on to lead and progress to the quarterfinals, where they will face Ajax Amsterdam. This game will be played at home at Alfredo di Stefano stadium on 7th or 8th of March.
This game was an epitome of Real Madrid and their never say die attitude and the spirit of remontada. Guti said this after the game:
At half time break, we have told them that they have to show what Real Madrid is
Guti deserves a lot of respect for the second half of the game. His changes were absolutely crucial in securing the victory, as both substitutes scored 3 out of 4 goals and massively improved overall performance. It's great to see a manager, who can react quickly to what is going on the pitch and fix those issues.
Lineup: Luca Zidane, Achraf, Alex, Manu, Cobo, Oscar, Seoane, Valverde, Alberto, Sergio Diaz, Franchu
Subs: Mink for Oscar, Dani Gomez for Alberto, Zabarte for Cobo
Goals: Mink 2x, Dani Gomez 1x, Sergio Diaz 1x
MOTM: It's a hard decision between Mink and Valverde, but due to Mink's impact in the second half, I have to give it to Mink, but Valverde is close second.