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Immediate Reaction: Sporting Gijon 2 - 3 Real Madrid

Isco is Gandalf.

Real Madrid win 2-3 away to Gijon, behind Isco’s insane performance where he singlehandedly carved Sporting into oblivion. The team went down a goal twice (goals from Cop and Vesga), but reacted each time with a wonder goal from Isco, a header from Morata, and a last minute clutch goal — and act of heroism — from Isco. Here’s a quick reaction to the game. Still to come: Player ratings, thorough review, and post-game podcast.

We need to get this out of the way now before we dissect anything further.

Isco was other-worldly. When he’s in his zone, he does things you just don’t see anywhere else in football. His touch is exclusive to him — it’s made of pure silk. The way he uses subtle shoulder feints to deceive defenders provides maximum aesthetic pleasure. He put the team on his back today.

Now, other things: Real Madrid approached this game nonchalant — akin to those pick-up games you roll up to where you only defend if you feel like it, but you’re mostly concerned about padding your stats high up the pitch. Kovacic, the only possible anchor left without Casemiro and Kroos, back-peddled all match, trying to mark two or three players at once. His partners, Isco, Asensio, and James, are all magnificent talents, but the drop-off in organization without Modric and Kroos is staggering.

On Sporting’s opening goal, Kovacic looked around to see that no one else from the midfield had sprinted back — but he coped until Isco tracked. But Isco didn’t help Kovacic close down the pass which led to the goal, and Nacho was stuck marking two players.

This was a recurring theme. The hole in front of the defense, and just in-behind the midfield was gaping. It’s hard to excuse it. Gijon had an abundance of space to work with, and most of their chances were stemmed from Real’s lack of vertical compactness. Their second goal eventually came from a set-piece — Nacho failing to put a body on the goalscorer for the second consecutive game. We know Nacho is reliable, but he also didn’t seem to learn from the lesson Vidal gave him in Munich. No one expects Nacho to out-jump everyone, but you have to do something — tug a shirt, make a leap, be an aggressor, create discomfort, etc.

Those were the defensive miscues. Offensively, Real Madrid reacted well to the two goals conceded, but this group of players, who have been so impressive this season, had trouble overpowering their opponents the way they did against Sevilla, Eibar, and Leganes earlier. Again, Isco decided to put matters in his own hands; but you do tend to appreciate two things in games like this: 1) The importance of so many key starters who weren’t on the pitch today; and 2) The incredible depth chart which gives this team three points in tough situations and allows Zidane to rest players (albeit, in this case, simultaneously inducing some sweaty palms) during an insane stretch of games in April.

Quick shoutout to Danilo, who assisted Morata’s goal, and played a very good game offensively. This was his most ‘Porto-esque’ performance in recent memory.

Half-time show:

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