Just as you thought your 2018 couldn’t get off to a better start, I was brought in to cover the immediate reaction for the second Copa game in a row!
The first home game on the calendar year was to be played against Numancia, in the second leg of the last 16 Copa Del Rey tie. Los Blancos earned a 3-0 lead in the first game, allowing for a smoother ride this time out. Lets get right to it:
First half notes
- In a game where you could bring Santiago Solari in as caretaker manager, and Madrid still wouldn't bottle the tie, there is no way near enough Castilla players in the squad for this game. It was a wasted opportunity for sure.
- Real Madrid’s line up was better this time around, as it looks like Zidane has ditched the 4-4-2 for this one, deploying Llorente and Kovačić in midfield with Ceballos ahead of them. The whites saw a lot of the ball and made some good passes, but the play was still quite bland for the majority of the first half.
- The goal was subject to some decent build up play. Numerous players involved before Carvajal whipped in a good cross for Lucas to nod home.
- Borja Mayoral has looked very bright on the ball, transporting me back to 2015/16 when I had the pleasure of seeing this stuff on a weekly basis.
- Both Theo and Marcos Llorente, who had less than impressive games last time, have been better tonight. A confident display mixed with flashes of brilliance from both of them.
- Kovačić provided the most entertainment-value for me in the first half with his surging runs forward.
- Vallejo quietly impressed me at the back, looking solid. A flawless first half showing, allowing nothing to get past him. That is until...
- ...The Numancia goal. There are two things I want to say regarding this matter:
1: The Real Madrid’s play in the minutes before the goal was the best of the entire half. They looked sharper, playing the ball around quickly, even chucking a few skills into the bag. Which is a shame because;
2. Numancia caught them on the counter. Two passes was all it took to draw the visitors level. Defensively, Madrid were all over the place. Carvajal (whom was running back from the previous attack), decided to track back centrally, which caused the main problem. This was down to one of two reasons: either he wanted to try and block the passing lane, or he was running into Vallejo’s position to cover, expecting Vallejo to engage the player on the ball out wide. I believe that it was the second reason, and Vallejo didn’t register this fast enough, allowing Numancia to play a decent ball into the box that was waiting to be finished.
- Madrid still ended the half on a high continuing their good play, and they were unlucky not to go in with a lead after Kovačić saw his shot saved well.
Second half notes
- My hope going into half time was that Madrid would come out and start how they finished the first half, and it looked to be my lucky day. Ceballos influenced the game more in five minutes of the second half than he did for the whole of the first.
- It was never going to be that long before Real Madrid regained the lead, and it came with style, as Kovačić burst into space before finding Asensio, who’s good ball in was well flicked on by Mayoral for Vázquez to finish nicely.
- You’re 5-1 up, against a team from a lower league, you’ve brought along two Castilla players, and having brought on Achraf for Carvajal at half time, who do you bring on next? Isco and Casemiro... Just to be completely sure I suppose. Come on Zidane mate...
- 2-2... Good cross, matched by a great header past Casilla. Not sure how Numancia have managed to get anything from this game.
- Numancia get a red card for bringing Isco down in the last minute. Smart tactical foul!
It feels a bit strange when there are more positives to take away from a poorer result, than there were in the 3-0 away game. Real Madrid are through to the quarter-finals of the Copa Del Rey. However, the game was not without it’s negatives, and this is another poor result that will only serve to add more scrutiny aimed at Zidane. As this is one of the last trophies available this season for Madrid, I expect Zidane and his team to step it up in the next round, against hopefully a stronger opponent.