Real Madrid score three goals (Ronaldo x2, Ramos) and kept a clean sheet. Here’s our quick reaction to the match. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast (Patrons only), tactical review, and post-game pressers
Real Madrid, as expected, earn their first win at the Bernabeu this season. It came about three games late, and with the cost of a Mateo Kovacic injury; but they scored three goals without conceding any, earned a quick pick-me-up, and will use this match as a baby-step to regain their blitzing form from the SuperCup(s).
Zidane rolled out a shapeshifting 4-3-3, with Isco roaming across several channels — but not as freely as he’s accustomed to in the diamond — and Bale and Ronaldo playing as interchangeable pawns. With APOEL playing a conservative damage-control blueprint, we weren’t able to see waves of attacks from the front three, but we saw it enough to create multiple chances. Case-in-point Real Madrid’s first goal, where Isco sliced through on the counter-attack and played it out-wide to a woke Bale who’s one-time, low-driven cross was surgical in finding Ronaldo’s boot.
As I noted in my Facebook live half-time video, the first half was strange in the sense that it was eventful (with stoppages and injuries), yet barely momentous enough to fill my notepad. APOEL doubled-up well on the flanks, limiting Marcelo and Carvajal’s space in swinging crosses, and forcing them to shoehorn a blocked cross, or recycle possession down the middle. As the ball swung, the defense shifted timely enough.
It was sound from APOEL, who were banking on damage control and hoping for a rare trek in the final third — but their build-up was tame, and ultimately, they had no chance in salvaging anything from this game.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, despite a great scoreline, weren’t steamrolling their opponent — but such is the standard we dangerously hold them to. In the second half, they sealed the deal and padded their lead. Ronaldo hit the bar, had a goal disallowed, was denied a clear penalty, and in between all that, scored from the spot. Ten minutes later, Sergio Ramos scored an acrobatic overhead kick like the unicorn he is.
There are things to nitpick from this game, to be sure. We’ll nitpick away like grumpy old men do on tonight’s Patron-only podcast. But efficient performances like this were riddled throughout last season’s historic campaign, and ultimately, this is a great result.