After a 7-1 thrashing of Deportivo over the weekend, it felt like Real Madrid were finding their stride and clicking into gear ahead of their Champions League match against PSG. Leganes and Garritano changed the script. They were brilliant defensively and even outplayed Madrid in the first half. Zidane’s decision to persist with young Achraf and exclude big names like Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale from the bench meant Madrid didn’t have answers when the game was in the balance. Zidane will take the blame for this result and rightly so—his fate, now more than ever, is tied to PSG and even advancement in the Champions League may not be enough.
Kiko Casilla—4: At no fault for the goal as Eraso curled the ball in with perfection. Though, his distribution was poor—particularly his goal kicks. He allowed Leganes to set up and cut off any short passes and his long range passing didn’t hit any Madrid players, even kicking it out of bounds on one occasion. Hard to watch such poor distribution, when a certain Kepa thrives with the ball at his feet.
Achraf—1.5: Sample size is large enough, simply not Real Madrid quality. That’s not to say he won’t eventually develop into RM quality, but the youngster is currently too much of a liability. We all want to see a “Canterano” come through the system, but not even recent graduates like Nacho, Carvajal, Jese, or Morata were thrust into the Madrid first team at age 18. A loan move to a Segunda team and then Primera the following year may have been the best move, but hindsight is 20/20. On the first Leganes goal, Sergio Ramos switched the ball over to the young Moroccan who was put under pressure and his heavy touch turned into a heavy back pass which Nacho couldn’t control and Eraso punished Madrid with a beautiful curled in shot. He slows the buildup down when in possession and his crossing remains very poor. In the final minutes of the first half, his poor clearance almost gave Baeveu a chance for Leganes to go two in front. The youngster can even take part of the blame in Leganes’s second goal. Theo was hounded by two Leganes attackers, one of which was Achraf’s mark—Achraf stood off and watched rather than imposing his body in the scruff. He still plays with too much fear and hesitance. He needs time to grow, and he won’t get that at the Bernabeu.
Nacho—6.5: May take some partial blame on Leganes opening goal. Tried to elegantly touch his way around Amrabat, when he should have put his body into the Leganes player and force a foul either way. When Leganes took the lead in the second half, Sergio Ramos decided to become a center forward leaving Nacho in foot races on counter attacks. Fortunately for Madrid, Nacho has the speed and IQ to handle that responsibility cleaned up most counter attacks with his pace. Was Madrid’s best defender on the night and was one of the few players who played well.
Sergio Ramos—6: Made a crucial interception in the opening twenty minutes to keep Leganes off the board. He and Theo did a nice job of keeping the right side of Leganes attack quiet. Desperately wanted to become Madrid’s savior after Leganes second goal and ventured high into the attack. Left some gaping holes for Nacho to fill, but came close on a couple of occasions with headers directed at goal.
Theo—4: Totally at fault for the second goal. It was not the first time that evening where he had lost his man on a corner kick and was beaten out to the header. Simply a matter of concentration. Got more involved in the attack than recent game using his pace and power to drive counter attacks for Madrid. Added more to his repertoire in this match—we saw more than just the five-yard pass back to his center back. He took on defenders with the ball at his feet and put in a couple decent crosses. His role in the second goal will blemish his otherwise decent performance. Still major growing pains for Madrid’s young fullbacks.
Marcos Llorente—3: Did a decent job defensively, and tactically puts himself in the right positions. Marcos covers well for the center backs, but there is a complete disconnect between himself and other teammates when in possession. On multiple occasions he gave the ball away needlessly and other times he didn’t make himself a good option for his teammates in possession. The talented youngster has struggled to adapt to Madrid and his confidence has taken a hit. Opportunities will now come few and far between and his Madrid career is now in the balance.
Mateo Kovacic—5: Simply no end product from Kovacic tonight. He had a few good driving runs through midfield with the ball at his feet, but little else to note. To really push for a starting XI position, he needs to add that “killer” element to his game.
Isco—5.5: The one man making things happening in the first half. Had some wonderful touches to get out of tight spaces and put in an inch perfect cross for Benzema who was centimeters away from connecting and burying the ball in the back of the net. His influence in the second half waned. He and Asensio have no positional discipline within Zidane’s system and frankly the Frenchman is wasting their talents. As Xavi stated in his El Pais interview, they can do the “pretty” stuff, but how effective are they? It is a crucial time in both the Spaniards careers’ and Madrid fans know what Isco is capable of, he needs to kick on again and prove he is one of the best in the business.
Lucas Vazquez—6: Like Isco, was solid in the first half. There is never any doubt about his defensive work-rate which again was second to none tonight. More noteworthy, was his offensive contribution which seems to be growing in the last few games. Turned his men with ease and does well to isolate himself on the wing for a 1v1 take-on. His attacking production was evidenced by his lead pass for Benzema to stab home and equalize early in the first half. When the game was in the balance and Leganes set up their defensive block, he offered little and was unable to be a difference maker.
Marco Asensio—4.5: Marca’s front page had a picture of Asensio and Zidane, claiming that the manager has demanded more of Marco and wants to see his form from last year. Unfortunately for Zidane and Madrid, Asensio offered very little tonight. His talent is awe-inspiring, but he has been unable to take responsibility and control the Madrid attack. He and Isco have an obvious connection on the field, but more often than not they are in the same space and want the same freedom. With a match in the balance, Asensio is the type of player that should be counted on to turn a game.
Karim Benzema—6: Very quiet first half, worked hard but produced very little. Came agonizingly close to scoring after Isco’s inch perfect pass. He would make amends early in the first half. He made an untracked run through the Leganes defense and Vazquez played him through—a little chip to the far corner put Madrid back in the driver seat. Late in the second half with Madrid in desperate need of a goal, Benzema was on the left wing instead of in the box looking to get on the end of a cross, hound a rebound, or connect through the middle. A player of his experience should know better.
Luka Modric—7: The Croatian maestro made a difference when he entered the match. The disappointment for Madrid fans was that his substitution came far too late. Modric only had twenty minutes to turn the game around and he slung some wonderful through balls slicing through the Leganes defensive line, but Madrid just couldn’t find the equalizer.
Dani Carvajal—7: Like Modric, entered the game far too late. Zidane should have made the change for Achraf at half-time. With the minutes he did play, Carvajal put in some quality crosses and dangerous opportunities. He was desperate to turn Madrid’s fortunes around. He added width and true quality in the attack.
Borja Mayoral—5: Given the last ten minutes to try and salvage the match. Had one snap-header which came close, but did not hit the target.
Zinedine Zidane—1: This result did not have to happen and the blame should fall primarily on Zidane. I have been a fervent supporter of Zidane, but some of his decisions in this match are inexcusable. His faith in Achraf is simply unwarranted. The youngster needed to be yanked at half-time. As many fans and pundit have pointed out, the decision to exempt game-changers like Cristiano and Bale from the bench is baffling given silverware is on the line. He has failed to get the best out of Asensio and Isco this season, particularly when they play together. Madrid’s attack had no answers for Leganes defensive block and solutions like Modric and Carvajal came far too late.
Zidane asked if his job on line v PSG: “Of course. That is really clear. I am responsible for this, I’m the coach. So I must find solutions. I must take on situation. I will keep fighting always, keep working, try and look for things to make the team better. Nothing more.”— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) January 24, 2018
MOTM: Luka Modric - came closest to changing the game with his introduction, if given more time may have found the key to unlock the Leganes defense.