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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 2 - 0 Valladolid

Real Madrid left it very late. Vinicius’s incisiveness off the bench changed the match.

Real Madrid CF v Real Valladolid CF - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Real Madrid defeated Valladolid 2 - 0 (OG’, Ramos) at the Bernabeu. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.

Solari’s first La Liga game in charge ends in a win — one that didn’t come without plenty of frustration for Real Madrid fans.

Solari rolled out a common 4-3-3 to start, giving a La Liga debut to Sergio Reguilon at left-back, and rewarding Odriozola’s form from the Copa del Rey by slotting in the youngster as the team’s right-back. Reguilon was one of the team’s lone bright spots in the first half (and throughout the entire game, to be sure). Real Madrid emphasized playing in a ton of crosses in the half (19, all in all, by half-time, and 44 by the end of it), with Reguilon being a focal point. The left-back attacked well, provided constant overloads, and the quality of his crosses were good.

Real Madrid’s crossing (for the prolific rate they hit them in), was generally of high quality. Bale, Casemiro, and Benzema were able to get on a good number of them, but the headers themselves were either tame or off-target.

And while the crosses were good, Real Madrid were underwhelming. Valladolid defended well, and Solari’s men didn’t make it difficult. Real channeled their offense through the left — which is fine and not uncommon — but Bale and Odriozola weren’t being used much on the opposite flank. The early-season cross-field switching to collapse defensive lines has vanished. Odriozola didn’t provide much offensively tonight; and Bale was a mere passenger — dropping deep to pass backwards. (Sometimes, and generally any time Bale doesn’t play well, he seems to forget how good he is, and decides to casually pass through the motions rather than being an incisive juggernaut like we know he’s capable of being.)

There was little hunger, and just not enough from Bale, Benzema, and Modric. At half-time I noted it would’ve been better to go down fighting with hungry, surgical offensive players who have flair like Ceballos and Vinicus Jr; than to sit through another half of zero urgency.

It should be noted that defensively, also, Real Madrid seemed a bit lax. It’s not that they defended poorly (Solari is generally a good defensive coach, and Real Madrid played a high line and packed the midfield without the ball), but their high line was almost exploited a few times by Enes Unal, and there was no pressing, meaning Valladolid looked comfortable being patient in their build-up in rare moments they did have possession. In the second half, when Real Madrid pressed higher (Kroos and Isco in particular did well to win the ball high up the pitch), the team also conceded chances through long-range efforts from Valladolid — two of which came from stinging shots that hit the crossbar behind Courtois.

It was strange, in a way, that by the time Isco came in for Casemiro, the Brazilian anchor was the most dangerous offensive player. He nearly scored from the far post with a header, and also came close with a couple long distance shots. Despite playing only 55 minutes, Casemiro had the most shots of anyone on the field (four), and when he left, Real did look a bit vulnerable facing counter-attacks.

Somehow, all of this culminated into a feel-good victory by the time the final whistle was blown. Real Madrid did attack better in the second half, and Vinicius’s entrance onto the pitch gave the team some energy that was lacking prior to his introduction:

There was a lucky deflection in the opening goal, but there is something important to point out on that goal:

Real Madrid scored a second, as Sergio Ramos converted a penalty, and ended up with a sorely-needed three points. We’ll break this down more in the coming hours.

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