Real Madrid win 5 - 0 (Benzema x2, Bale, Casemiro, Kroos) away to Viktoria Plzen in Pilsen. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.
That’s 11 goals scored now and zero goals conceded since Solari took over as interim head coach. That’s not a bad start, even when considering the opponents, and the first half struggles against Valladolid. Solari’s men ran up the score line and were up four goals by half-time tonight, with Viktoria Plzen looking defeated at the half.
For the first 20 minutes or so, Real Madrid struggled. While Lucas Vazquez started on the right flank, he played quite high up the pitch — leaving Odriozola with no coverage behind him. Plzen exploited that space three times early on, and on one occasion, produced a cross from that area, and Nacho hit his own crossbar from a deflection. Plzen seemed to have momentum, and, it wasn’t until a Sergio Ramos elbow that caused a stoppage in play, when Real Madrid were able to regroup and restructure their shape.
It may seem naive to think that stoppage in play changed the outcome of the match, but it did kill Viktoria’s momentum, and right around the half-hour mark, Casemiro started covering for Odriozola, doubling up on the flanks, and putting in important challenges. The Brazilian anchor had a great game defensively, which shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The other (and main) midfield cog, Toni Kroos, was fantastic. He sad six key passes during the first half surge, and added two assists and a goal to his absurd stat-line by the end of it.
Real Madrid took control, when, hand-in-hand with better defensive positioning, Karim Benzema unlocked the game with a moment of brilliance:
From there, Real Madrid coasted offensively. Plzen were really loose defensively (both Benzema and Casemiro were completely unmarked on Real Madrid’s second and third goals), and did not look comfortable dealing with Real Madrid’s possession and passing in the final third. Benzema and Bale were interchangeable as left-winters and central spearheads, and Lucas Vazquez, while being a mixed bag offensively, losing the ball seven times, did have a lot efficient offensive moments, had a goal wrongly disallowed, and worked hard defensively.
Solari running off the bench in the 89th minute, 5-0 up, to applaud a Lucas defensive effort. Nice moment.— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) November 7, 2018
With the game done and dusted in the second half, Solari was able to reward Javi Sanchez — a player who deserved this moment as much as anyone with how well he’s played for Castilla — with an appearance, replacing Sergio Ramos in the process. Vinicius Jr also came off the bench, and while clearly still raw with his decision making, displayed how dangerous he can be offensively, and did sling an assist to Toni Kroos on the team’s fifth goal:
This could’ve been more than five. As mentioned before, Lucas had a goal wrongly disallowed late, and Gareth Bale hit the crossbar. The team had counter-attacks throughout. But who’s complaining? A manita, and Karim Benzema, with his two goals, becomes the seventh player in Real Madrid history to score 200 goals for the club. We’ll break this down more on tonight’s Patron podcast.