High flying Real Sociedad were put up against the mighty Real Madrid who were missing key players in Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, and Marcelo. Zidane gave young Borja Mayoral the starting spot upfront and it was a decision that paid dividends. Borja worked tirelessly and came out of the match with a goal and an assist. Despite the change in personnel, Madrid dominated possession and had confidence and control throughout. It was tough to decide who was man-of-the-match in a game where so many contributed. It was truly a team performance. Two standout performers were Varane and Mayoral who did the job at both ends of the pitch.
Keylor Navas — 5: Sociedad barely threatened his goal in the first half, but the Costa Rican should have done a lot better with Rodrigues’ volley. The shot came directly at him and Keylor stopped it, but allowed the ball to bobble under him and trickle into the net. Mistakes like these are magnified when keepers like De Gea and Courtois would love to be playing for Los Blancos. As we have seen before, Keylor has the character to bounce back, and I expect him to come up big when Madrid need him most.
Dani Carvajal — 7: Madrid's fullbacks had all sorts of space tonight. Carvajal's late overlapping runs were a constant nuisance for Rodrigues and Januzaj. He was late coming back and covering space in Sociedad’s goal and Rodrigues was there to give Carvajal a taste of his own medicine with a late surging run. Took a major blow to the head near the end of game when defending a cross. The fullback collided hard with Agirretxe. That would not stop him, as minutes later he burst his lungs and produced a great goal-saving tackle in the final 10 minutes to keep Sociedad from scoring a second.
Raphael Varane — 9: Immense game from the Frenchman. Varane’s vision and long range passing is underrated. Picked out some spectacular long balls to switch the field of play and stretch Sociedad's defensive line. Made a goal-line save to keep Sociedad from going in front with the match was tied at 1-1. That goal-line save then immediately led to Madrid's second goal. His speed and physicality is a huge asset and the boy from Lens seems to be coming of age.
Sergio Ramos — 7.5: Ramos led the back-line well. At times he took the team out of shape, looking to surge forward and become a hero by positioning himself as a center forward. In defense of Ramos’s desire to attack, it was his juggling of the ball in the box that led to Mayoral’s opening goal.
Theo -- 8.5: Great performance from the left back. Showed superb control and pace down the left wing. He was always an option to switch the field and provided much needed width. He and Carvajal both were able to make late runs in behind Sociedad’s back line. It was a fun duel between him and another promising full back, Odriozola, who continually came bursting down the right wing only for Theo to shut it down. A confidence boosting performance which will do the youngster well. Battled all night and put his body on the line, unfortunately that sacrifice may come as a price as the 19-year-old may have dislocated his shoulder.
Theo Hernandez's game by numbers vs. Real Sociedad:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 17, 2017
100% tackles won
2 chances created
Casemiro — 7: As per usual, Casemiro was a defensive rock. He put in some spectacularly-timed slide tackles and anchored the midfield expertly. The Sociedad midfield had no chance against Madrid's midfield.
An underrated quality of this RM team: how tough they are. Ramos, Casemiro, Carvajal, even Modric. Consistently outmuscling La Real tonight.— Alex Kirkland (@alexkirkland) September 17, 2017
Modric — 8: Will not be one of the names talked about after this match, but Modric continues to bring the level expected of him. Sociedad's midfield could not get near him. He put in a total performance, working hard on defense and dictating the flow of the game in attack.
Isco — 7.5: A quiet first half from Isco, but was untouchable in the second half. Illaramendi and co. simply couldn't compete. Showed brilliant vision on the assist for Bale's goal, dinking the ball over top to exploit the Welshman's speed. He was always looking to play the incisive final ball and slipped Lucas Vazquez in-behind who almost scored the fourth.
Bale — 8: Gareth always scores at Anoeta! Scored Madrid's third to give the team some breathing room. Was set free chasing a ball over the top and showed he still has that blistering speed. Rumors of his change in running form or loss of speed should be quickly swiped to the side. His overall impact in the game was limited as he still is searching for a more commanding presence in the attack and needs to demand more of the ball. He makes the runs but the team just seems to look him off. It's obvious that he is still building up fitness. Expect his performances to continually improve
Asensio — 7: A good, but not great game from the Spanish gem. Was utilized on the left flank and kept possession well, always looking to link up with Isco and Theo. Scored a great goal in the 82nd minute, but Gareth Bale was called offside and interfered with the play.
Mayoral — 9: Zidane gave the youngster a huge opportunity and a huge vote of confidence starting him from the outset. That faith was repaid. Borja opened the scoring with a very opportunist poacher's goal. Ramos was doing Ramos things, juggling the ball in the box to set up a probable bicycle kick. Sergio began to lose balance and Mayoral came thumping in — powering home a close-range volley.
It wasn't just the goal — the youngster was involved and linked up well with his teammates too. He hounded Llorente and Elustondo all night. He doubled down and applied pressure whenever he could. He would be rewarded for such defensive work by challenging Llorente in the middle of the field and winning the ball to release himself on the break. He slowed down and it looked like the opportunity may have been lost, but Mayoral showed silky skill to beat Elusondo one-on-one and drive the ball towards goal which was deflected in by Rodrigues for an own goal.
Should have had a second goal after being played through beautifully by Asensio. Rulli parried his first shot, but the rebound was there to tuck away and Mayoral unfortunately shot wide from a tight angle. Was taken off in the 75th minute, but not much more could be asked of the youngster. He was a deciding factor in Madrid's game.
Mayoral goal for Real Madrid vs real sociedad pic.twitter.com/ajsdRVczD3— Elite Football (@EliteF94) September 17, 2017
Lucas Vazquez — 6.5: Came on for Mayoral and was placed in his usual right wing role. Slipped through by Isco and almost chipped Rulli for the fourth. Put in his usual effort and tireless running, but game was in control and his impact was minimal.
Dani Ceballos — N/A: Came on for Asensio in the 85th minute. Very limited time to have any influence on the match, but had a nice interception late on and as usual produced clean crisp passing.
Nacho — N/A: came on in the 92nd minute for a battered and bruised Theo.
Zinedine Zidane — 9: Zidane is a man of his word. When he says he has faith in all his players, he means it. In a crucial away match, without the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, and Marcelo, the team not only won, but controlled the match. Giving Mayoral the chance to start upfront was a message and a risk, one that payed huge dividends to Zidane. He sticks true to his ideas regardless of the criticism and a manager like that can only be respected.
Bale is better in this role as opposed to the spearhead; and a great message for Mayoral too. Like it.— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) September 17, 2017
Man of the Match: Raphael Varane & Borja Mayoral
Honorable mention: Theo Hernandez