Madrid are back! What a game—Zidane brought back the 4-3-3 and with it the team brought back their lethal attitude. Gareth Bale put in a man of the match performance, Nacho and Ronaldo scored braces, Casemiro was foot perfect defensively, and Marcelo was rampaging down the left flank. Everything Madrid fans have been yearning for had finally come to fruition. The team may very well be revving their engines as PSG is on the horizon. For all the criticism they have earned, now should come some rightful praise!
Keylor Navas—7: Good game from Keylor, did well with the ball at his feet and was alert throughout. No fault in the goal as three of the back four were caught ball watching. Made a crucial save in the 92nd minute to keep Depor at one goal.
Dani Carvajal—8: A performance that proved he is one of the best right full backs in the world. One blip early in the game as he was nudged off the ball by Andone which then led to Deportivo taking the lead. After the goal, there was no looking back for Carvajal and the team—it was one-way traffic. Dani put in some beautiful crosses, shut down the right flank, and had a great opportunity to score late in the game after sprinting past the Depor backline, but his volley was straight at Ruben. He and Bale have a wonderful understanding and the team will look to capitalize on that moving forward.
Raphael Varane—7: The Frenchman had little to do with Madrid bamboozling the Depor goal. Marshaled the backline well with Nacho. Both pushed the line high to keep Deprotivo locked in and to win the ball back quickly transition into attack.
Nacho—9.5: If Madrid had kept the clean sheet, Nacho would have earned a 10. With a performance like today, the question arises—should Ramos remain an automatic starter? His left footed diagonal ball was inch perfect.. After Madrid went behind, it was Nacho who stepped up and took his goal brilliantly. A recycled corner kick found its way to the Spaniard who linked up with Marcelo via a quick one-two and slotted the first goal home. But the center back wasn’t finished; he popped up later to score Madrid’s seventh with some beautiful technical work. He was a defensive stalwart and stopped every Depor attack that came his way.
Honestly, right now I wouldn't put Ramos back in the team ahead of Nacho— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) January 21, 2018
Marcelo—8.5: Great game for the Brazilian was a constant outlet on the left flank and the Deportivo defense could not handle his overlapping runs. The Ronaldo-Marcelo left sided connection was back. Notched an assist and encouraging signs that Brazilian could be returning to form.
Casemiro—9: Brilliant, his best performance of the year. Crucial 1v1 defending early in the first half where he perfectly timed his tackle on Andone. Time and time again he put in well time tackles and broke up any type of midfield play that Deportivo attempted to generate.
Luka Modric—9: Midfield connection of old was back. Madrid benefits having Modric as an outlet higher up the pitch rather than having to cover the right wing. Modric was everywhere linking the midfield to the defense and the attack. When Modric ticks the team ticks and that was obvious tonight. Scored a Modric-esque goal form outside the box after some neat play by Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Toni Kroos—7.5: Reinvigorated. His pinpoint long range passing was back on full display. Did a better job tracking his man in midfield and locking the Depor defense under pressure when Madrid transitioned. Had a few misplaced passes in the second half that could have led to dangerous opportunities, but Marcelo and Casemiro were able to clean up the mess.
Gareth Bale—9.5: The best player on the pitch. Bale is back. His right-footed crossing has improved and he toyed with Luisnho all evening. His skills were on full display-- striking accuracy, speed, dribbling and vertical leaping. He tracked back and put in some beautifully timed slide tackles. What more could be asked of the Welshman as he put the team on his back and put away two great goals. Scored a beauty of a goal, whipping the ball in with his left foot. On the second, he showed his dangerous aerial ability with a header off of Toni Kroos’s in- swinging corner kick.
Gareth Bale vs Deportivo:— RMadrid Edition (@RMadridEdition) January 21, 2018
Minutes played: 82'
Shots (on target): 2 (2)
Dribble attempts (succ.): 4 (3)
Key passes: 3
Duels (won): 9 (7)
Man of the match performance from the Welshman! pic.twitter.com/u31tRzVxSo
Borja Mayoral—6.5: Worked tirelessly for the team. Hustled for lost causes, played as a focal point, occupied the two center backs, and combined despite being hounded. Had a few heavy touches, but in all in all a solid performance from the former youth teamer.
Cristiano Ronaldo—8.5: Zidane placed Ronaldo is his most comfortable position, the left wing of a 4-3-3. He was much more active and involved in the team’s build up play. Rolled the years back with a few silky runs to beat the Depor defense. I have personally been vocal about Ronaldo not being a 9 and tonight he showed that he and the team are better off with him on the wing. Was cut a frustrating figure as the goals rolled in and he was yet to find himself on the score sheet despite some good opportunities. His luck ultimately did change and the 5 time Balon D’or winner scored a brace notching two late goals.
Karim Benzema—7: Involved quickly after his introduction, linking up with Ronaldo and Marcelo throughout. As Ronaldo found himself drifting centrally, Karim stuck himself on the left wing and performed well. The return of the 4-3-3 and the return of the BBC brought the best out of Madrid.
Mateo Kovacic—6.5: Filled in seamlessly to the midfield. Added that extra bit of dynamism he brings with his ball carrying ability. Almost slipped Ronaldo in after driving through the heart of the midfield but his through ball was cut out by One.
Lucas Vazquez—7.5: Substituted Gareth Bale for the final ten minutes of the match. Made an instant impact with an overlapping run around Carvajal then taking on his man 1v1 and curling a cross in for Cristiano to score his second and Madrid’s sixth.
Zinedine Zidane—9: Zidane got it all right today. A return to 4-3-3 made all the difference for the team. He did not try to force players into a system instead he picked the players to fit his system. That tweak coupled with a fed-up, must-win attitude from the team meant Deportivo had a long night infront of them. His substitutions should be noted—no Isco and no Asensio. He chose all like-for-like substitutions and kept with the 4-3-3 system. It will be interesting to see the two Spaniards role in the next few weeks.
MOTM: Gareth Bale