Real Madrid won by three goals — perhaps a deceiving scoreline — on the backs of goals from Benzema, Isco, and Nacho. Here’s a few notes; which will be followed by player ratings, a match review, and a post-game podcast later this evening.
In the 18th minute of Real Madrid’s uncomfortable 1-0 victory over Alavés, Camarasa — playing a deeper role than he’s accustomed to, given that Marcos Llorente was out of the line-up — gave the ball away in the position Llorente regularly hovers. Luka Modric picked his pocket, and slung a counter the other way with numbers.
That was always going to be an obvious sore-spot for Pellegerino’s men today. I will take every opportunity I can to shoehorn Llorente’s name into everything, but this is a crucial point to take away: The clause in Llorente’s loan deal won’t be talked about much, but it could turn out to be a huge reason Real Madrid aren’t the only big team to not have points taken away from them at the hands of Aláves’ surging season. Without Llorente, the counter-attacks are defanged, and the only other player who can bring it out of the back — Theo Hernandez — was pinned by Bale and Danilo / Carvajal. And even when Theo did venture forward dangerously, Real made it a priority to double-up on his runs. Ibai and Toquero couldn’t venture forward at all in the first half, and Deyversen’s isolated runs were sniffed out by a very conscious — and impressive — Kiko Casilla.
But here’s the thing — they weren’t overrun. They are nearly always strong defensively, and today Pellegrino’s line-up was back-heavy. Real Madrid actually played a nice rhythmic offensive game in the first half with a lot of interchanging play from the wings, and dynamic runs down the central channels — but few will talk about how well Alavés denied those runs. In the second half, when they were forced to venture forward more, the assumption was they’d get blitzed on the counter-attack — but they did well to snuff those out as well.
Ultimately, the win was always likely despite the laborious attempts to break down an organized defensive scheme, because you weren’t going to need more than one or two goals against an Alavés side that was going to struggle breaking through in the attacking third.
Isco’s goal from a tight-angle eased the nerves in the 2nd half, and Nacho’s header iced this game.
Some miscellaneous notes
- It’s nice to see Kovacic, finally. He did well in the limited minutes he had. I’m surprised he didn’t flat-out start out this game, given Casemiro’s absence and Luka looking like he needs a rest. I imagine we’ll see him from the first minute against Leganes.
- I though Pepe was outstanding across the board: one-on-one defending, aerial duels, positioning, beating his man to the ball, cutting off passing lanes..
- Another strong game from Danilo, who typically plays well anytime he’s needed on the left flank. His only mistake seemed to have been leaving Mendez sneak-in back-post in the 2nd half which nearly resulted in a goal. Though, at the Bernabeu, there are no replays, so my assumption of it being Danilo’s mistake could be wrong.