Spain cruised past Wales tonight at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, in what was a pretty ideal scenario for Madridistas. Gareth Bale, who was 50 / 50 to play this friendly, watched from the sidelines in what was a relatively meaningless game. Asensio, after getting heavy minutes all season, got some rest. Ditto Nacho. Isco was back home and back in training, and Dani Carvajal was out of this game due to injury. Sergio Ramos only played 45 minutes and scored a goal; while Dani Ceballos, the most prominently featured Real Madrid player, played the full 90 and was a key cog in the team’s build-up and flow.
Luis Enrique rotated heavily — although admittedly, we don’t really know what his de facto starting XI is, yet — in what was a tune-up match before the main course on Monday in the UEFA Nations League against England. Suso started on the right flank, Rodri commanded the anchoring position, Raul Albiol (a captain, at one point!) started alongside Sergio Ramos in central defense, and Johnny made his national team debut off the bench.
Spain were comfortably superior from the first minute. We don’t have advanced statistics for friendlies, but the basic stats tell us enough: Spain had over 70% possession and completed over 400 more passes than Wales did. Interestingly, Luis Enrique started both Morata and Alcacer together, and had them both drop deep to pick up possession regularly. The team also switched the ball to Suso on the right flank often, while getting into positions where Suso could pick them out with a cross. It was quite quick and direct offensively, with a lot of moving parts. Wales, although they did have good defensive sequences deep in their own half, didn’t look comfortable defending Spain tonight, and had a number of holes that led to chances.
Within the first three minutes, Spain were ahead 2 - 0, courtesy of an Alcacer brace. At the time he scored his second goal, it was actually his ninth goal in 200 minutes this season, which is just absurd.
90 mins, 7 goals... Paco Alcacer isn't slowing down this season pic.twitter.com/2nyr0QCx5f— Oluwaseyi (@Shexxilona) October 11, 2018
Shortly after, Sergio Ramos scored Spain’s third goal, amid some terrible defending from the Welsh:
Suso’s assist for Sergio Ramos against Walespic.twitter.com/nbBF48VRmk— Milan Eye (@MilanEye) October 11, 2018
Ramos did have some bad habits from his domestic campaign trickle into this game, namely giving away the ball cheaply a couple times from the back.
Ceballos’s role was interesting in this match. While he was listed as a left-CM, he played more on the right in the first half with Saul hedging to the left. But he did roam without the ball. He won the ball from deep on the right; and other times pressed well and received an outlet pass on the left:
In the second half, with Spain fully in control and racking up possession, Marc Bartra scored the team’s fourth goal off the bench:
Suso’s assist for Marc Bartra against Walespic.twitter.com/qMRf9Okmfi— Milan Eye (@MilanEye) October 11, 2018
Wales pulled one back late, as Sam Vokes outmuscled Bartra on a header at the far-post, giving Bale something to smile about from the stands. Otherwise, this was a routine win for Spain, and we’ll have some more notes for you on tonight’s Churros y Tácticas Podcast.