Tale of the Tape
With one eye on the second leg of their last sixteen Champions League clash versus Napoli, Real Madrid came into this match after a well fought but agonizing draw against Las Palmas, losing the first spot in the table to bitter rivals Barcelona. Zidane and his men traveled to Eibar where they were without the services of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Alvaro Morata, Rafael Varane and of course Fabio Coentrao.
Los Vikingos needed all three points from this game to continue their campaign of winning La Liga. On paper, this game looked tricky for Real Madrid considering they were missing several of their star players. To add to that the defense has been shaky as of late and shot stopper Keylor Navas has not being on top of his game.
As it Happened
Zidane fielded his men on a 4-3-3 formation. With the Frenchman opting to not risk Ronaldo, Marcos Asensio was chosen to fill in the big shoes of the Portuguese. On the right side of the wing, the always reliable Lucas Vazquez was chosen to fill in for the suspended Gareth Bale. Marcelo and Kroos were rightfully rested and Casemiro found himself back in the line-up after not featuring against Las Palmas.
Real Madrid dominated the game from the get go and had a pacy start as Karim Benzema looked to score in minute two of the game, only for Eibar’s Capa to make a challenge and prohibit the Frenchman from taking a shot.
Real Madrid showed no signs of cooling off as they attempted to penetrate the Eibar defense again through Benzema who tried to find Modric, but Ramis’ challenge on the Frenchman saw the ball go out for a goal-kick.
Zidane’s men finally made the breakthrough in the 14th minute after a cross from Asensio found an unmarked Benzema at the back post. Karim cut inside Luna to shoot only for his initial effort to be clawed away by Yoel, but at the feet of the hungry Frenchman who put it in the back of the net on his second attempt.
It was Karim Benzema again who after just 11 minutes of the opening goal tapped in James’ flawless dead-ball delivery. The Frenchman was merciless in the game as he returned the favor to the Colombian by providing him with a low cross in which James made no mistake in putting it away for the third goal.
Within 29 minutes, Karim Benzema registered two goals and an assist. Something that will surely help his confidence. James too within this time frame was impressive by registering two key passes, an assist and a goal.
Capa drives tried to get Eibar back in the game by whipping in a dangerous cross to Sergi Enrich, whose shot from close-range was thwarted away by a joint effort from Navas and Ramos. Ruben Pena delivered a cross from the left, but Danilo made a block which saw the ball go out for a corner. The resulting corner was claimed by Navas as the first half came to a fold.
Stat Check at Half-Time:
Real Madrid dominated the first-half of the game with 59% possession, managing nine shots - six of which were on target. Eibar could only record one shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.
The start of the second half saw Karim Benzema go for his hattrick as Casmeiro’s header put him in a dangerous position only for Yoel to deny the Frenchman before he could deal any damage.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of today’s play was when Benzema with his great vision brilliantly released Asensio on the left, who selflessly crossed for James, with the Colombian leaning back and hitting the post only for Asensio to bury the rebound to score Madrid’s fourth.
Everything about this was so freaking satisfying. pic.twitter.com/yg8IqlFf91— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) March 4, 2017
The next period of the game saw Mariano, Kovacic and Isco coming on for Benzema, Modric and James respectively. Eibar eventually found one back when Pedro Leon delivered a cross from the right, and Pena was able to finish inside the far post.
Eibar started seeing more of the ball, but the damage was already done by the men in White and the home side will be disappointed as they never got going in the game.
Eibar started to come alive in later part of the game in contrast to Madrid who were happy to see off the game. Substitute Mariano Diaz came close to putting one inside the net but his header was off target. The dying minutes of the game saw Kovacic make quite the run with the ball when he burst into the Eibar penalty area, only for Rivera to play spoilsport and deny the Croatian of dealing any damage.
- Karim Benzema as witnessed in this game was sublime. Adding to his brace, his assist and him being a constant threat for the helpless Eibar team, him releasing Asensio on the left was jaw-droppingly phenomenal.
- Asensio was called in to fill in the big boots of the best player in the world and he played his role to perfection. Asensio did not let his lack of playing time be an issue. Instead of being rusty, he was simply magical.
- Lucas Vazquez the ever so dependable also did well to fill in for Gareth Bale as he has been doing all season.
- James Rodriguez. How to start and how to end with this awe-inspiring Colombian. Rarely has a bad game when provided with the opportunity. He was superb today with his accurate dead-ball delivery which led to Benzema’s second goal. Connected perfectly with his teammates and Asensio in particular. Zidane has got to make better use of the gifted Colombian.
- Casemiro had a fine game, but he needs to take it easy and try to not get booked unnecessarily. Madrid were up 4-0 when he saw Yellow. He will miss the game against Real Betis.
- Danilo was mostly excellent today. He tried to contribute both offensively and defensively. This game will help immensely with his confidence.
- Nacho at the moment is invaluable for Real Madrid. The full-bearded Spaniard did fairly well at left back which allowed Marcelo to rest. The bottom line is Nacho can cover both the left back position as well as the central back. He has been very crucial in this campaign of Real Madrid’s and will continue to do so in the need of hour.
- Pepe apart from his loss of focus in the dying minutes to give the ball away was fine today. Pepe is a well established veteran for Real Madrid who provides balance and stability to the playing eleven both mentally and physically.
- Zidane did well in having Navas as his shot stopper today, as benching him immediately after he did not have his best game (Las Palmas) would have sent the Costa Rican a wrong message.
- Real Madrid made off with three huge points and were also able to provide some much needed rest to Kroos, Marcelo and Carvajal ahead of the Napoli game.
- Although, Cristiano Ronaldo did not physically feature in the game tonight, many happen to be of the opinion that we play better when the Portuguese doesn’t feature. This in my humble opinion could not be further from the truth. Not implying that he is a perfect 10/10 every time he sets foot on the pitch, but Ronaldo’s game is so much more than just waiting in the box for tap ins as suggested by his detractors. The intelligent runs that he makes and him dragging away defenders, thereby making space for his teammates along with his diverse range of abilities makes him a complete forward setting him apart from any other player in the world. It is quite difficult to imagine any other player replicating his contribution for Real Madrid over the years.