It was a dull affair this evening in the Spanish Capital. But in 90 minutes Real Madrid picked up three goals, 18 shots, and three very important — if not yet decisive points — for Real Madrid as they look to win La Liga for the first time since 2012.
Prior to the commencement of the match, while a certain player from a certain rival team had made some comments about Real Madrid; the professional that is Zinedine Zidane shrugged off the comments saying:
Real Madrid is a big and a serious club. We are only thinking of Alavés.
It was only right that The Mister was focused on Alavés — a tricky fixture which could have proved to be trouble for Real Madrid.
It was a match where fans expected Real Madrid to decimate Deportivo Alavés. The misleading scoreline says Zidane’s men won by three goals to none, suggesting Real Madrid destroyed Alavés. But nothing of that sort happened. The game was evenly matched and Alavés had numerous opportunities to put Madrid in a tight spot. Alavés had the opportunity to at least force the match into a stalemate, thereby hurting Real Madrid’s campaign for La Liga Title.
We have often witnessed teams struggling to find that chemistry and that special connection that players have with one another after an International/Winter break. This time was no different either.
While Real Madrid had a possession of 62%, they struggled to penetrate the compact Alaves defense effectively, giving the ball away 73 times. On the bright side, the possession allowed Madrid to take control of the midfield and frustrate Alavés.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Dani Carvajal were both on 4 Yellow cards, meaning if they saw Yellow, they would have missed the game against Leganés. They did not get booked and will be available against Leganés. They however have to ensure that they do not get booked in the game against Leganés, because if they do, they will miss the game against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.
The match started with the Bernabeu honouring the Legendary Juanito after 25 years of his tragic death.
With less than a minute on the clock gone, it was Luka Modric whose sliding challenge led to an opening for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese Captain’s first-time shot from outside the penalty area went over the bar.
After Ronaldo’s early scare, Alavés recovered well at the Bernabeu to make Real Madrid work. Zidane’s men failed to create chances and the lack of fluidity was evident. With Dani Carvajal suddenly starting to vigorously warm up, it was only a matter of time that someone from the back four would be taken off. That someone was Rafa Varane who had to go off after picking up a knock.
It was around the 15th minute, when Cristiano Ronaldo surged forward to take control of a loose ball only to be barged down in MMA fashion by Rodrigo Ely.
While Madrid continued to look rusty, Isco produced great skill to disco inside the Alaves penalty area before shooting the ball just wide of the post. Zidane’s men were able to somewhat control the game, but their effort in the final third was simply lacklustre.
It was the fresh Karim Benzema who opened the scoring after 31 minutes by drilling home a powerful left-footed strike into the top left-hand after a lovely cut-back by Dani Carvajal.
It took 30 minutes for the home side to register a shot on target but, in the truest Real Madrid style, they made no mistake to take the lead when Dani Carvajal swept the ball back from the edge of the box for Benzema to score Madrid’s first for the evening.
Alavés did not let the goal have any effect on their morale as they continued to move forward eventually earning a chance to equalize when Ibai Gomez provided a dangerous ball in the box, only for Acosta Deyverson to head the ball wide of Casilla’s left post.
It was not a great first half from Real Madrid’s perspective as Zinedine Zidane's men created very little going forward and allowed Alavés to create dangerous opportunities for themselves.
The start of the second half saw a huge chance for Alavés. Kiko Casilla made a mess of Gaizka Toquero's cross and Alaves’ number 20 Deyverson could only look on in disbelief as the ball leaped off him and just over the bar after firing in the rebound.
What a goal it could have been had Ronaldo’s goal not being offside. But, alas, it was by a long way. Nonetheless, it was a good effort by Ronaldo to race onto Benzema’s ball and slot the ball in.
Zidane’s men were caught napping as Alavés were allowed to create opportunity after opportunity. An unmarked Edgar seemed certain to score in the 59th minute only to put it wide to everyone’s surprise in the Spanish Capital. Alavés came close to scoring once again, only for Edgar’s ball to be headed over the bar by Deyverson. The 69th minute of the game saw Manu’s glancing header go just wide of the post with Casilla rooted to his spot.
With a one-goal cushion doing nothing to calm their nerves nor demoralize Alavés, Real Madrid at that moment of time were simply hanging by a thread.
In the 84th minute, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who slipped a seductive pass into the path of Isco who unleashed an erotic shot into the roof of the net to make it 2-0 for Real Madrid.
Just a couple of minutes later, it was Gareth Bale who fired a powerful freekick which smashed the woodwork only to fall onto the path of Nacho who was in the right place at the right time to head it inside the back of the net to make it 3-0.
1) The scoreline should not be allowed to veil Real Madrid’s lacklustre performance.
2) Cristiano Ronaldo had a fine game. He got himself thoroughly involved and was unlucky to not have scored. He definitely could have done better in some of the opportunities though.
3) Gareth Bale had a fine game as well, but nothing out of the extraordinary. The Welshman is 27 years old, arguably approaching his peak and in that sense he should be bossing game after game.
4) Isco is a gem of a player. He was superb today and can be the difference maker in our upcoming big games. Isco’s creativity and ability to work the opposition’s defense, even when it is stubborn and compact like today is invaluable.
5) Pepe was phenomenal today. While he has been plagued with injury this season, Pepe has showed why he is a veteran that Zidane can depend on whenever needed.
6) Karim Benzema was great today. Scored a goal, good movement and even seemed to intuitively put the ball on Ronaldo’s path for a goal. Such a shame it was offside.
7) Kiko Casilla looked nervous, very nervous. He might have managed to keep a cleansheet, but that is more to do with Alaves’ poor finishing than Casilla’s quality goalkeeping this evening. That’s not to say Casilla is a horrible goalkeeper, but he did seem shaky and at this stage of the season, it is difficult to trust either one of Casilla or Navas. It can definitely be argued that Casilla deserves more opportunities to prove himself.