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Immediate Reaction (Copa Del Rey - Round of 32, 1st Leg): Melilla 0 - 4 Real Madrid

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Real Madrid get off to a solid start under Solari.

Real Madrid CF v SL Benfica - UEFA Youth League Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Real Madrid recorded a 4-0 win vs. Melilla in the first leg of the Copa del Rey Round of 32 under new coach Santiago Solari. Below are some quick observations on what transpired:

  • Solari went with his classic 4-2-3-1 that has been a staple of his Castilla sides. Ceballos and Llorente started off in a double-pivot with Asensio playing behind the striker. This switched to a 4-4-2 when Melilla had the ball.
  • Keeping with some of their more recent performances in the Copa del Rey, Real Madrid didn’t start the game particularly well. Many of the touches were rough, the combinations kept breaking down, and Melilla’s high press kept stunting the away side’s build-up.
  • Things changed for the better in the first half after the goal. Solid play between Lucas Vázquez, Alvaro Odriozola, and Karim Benzema opened the scoring and knocked some of the wind out of the plucky Melilla. It simultaneously provided the away side with a dose of confidence, and some solid wing patterns between the fullback, center back, and near-side central midfielder allowed Madrid to advance up the pitch and control the game a bit more. Thus, another goal soon resulted, with Vinícius setting up Asensio with the outside of his boot.
  • Solari made substitutions in the second half. Fede Valverde came on for Benzema, pushing Asensio into a false nine role, while Fede became the new #10. Nacho also came on for Sergio Ramos.
  • Real Madrid became less effective in possession once Benzema departed. Asensio didn’t get many touches at the point of the attack and only sporadically provided himself as an outlet whenever he decided to drift wide. This resulted in Madrid having to rely on the counter-attack to create chances.
  • Ironically, Madrid scored their third goal of the game off a well-worked, slower possession move started and finished by Odriozola.
  • The fourth goal came at the death, when substitute Cristo González, who came on for Asensio, headed home an Odriozola cross.
  • Melilla pressed quite well for most of the game. They also kept threatening Real Madrid’s defensive lines with runs in-behind, but they couldn’t beat the offside trap. They never looked like winning but they did hit the post once and produced a performance with many positives.
  • Lucas Vázquez was Madrid’s best player in the first half while Odriozola was the team’s best player over both periods of play.
  • Vinícius had bright moments spattered throughout the game. He showed a good relationship with Benzema in the first half, threatened with his pace on the break, and showed off some of his 1v1 ability as the minutes trickled closer to full-time.
  • Given that Solari has had virtually no time to implement his own philosophies, the team retained much of Lopetegui’s tactical identity. The build-up was structured, the supporting movements towards the defensive midfielder were continuous, and the offense was more free-form.
  • This encounter gave us some useful minutes to assess the likes of Vinícius, Reguilón, etc., but it told us little about what kind of first team coach Solari will be.