Borja Mayoral and Theo Hernandez squared off against each other tonight, in La Liga’s Friday-night-melee between Levante and Real Sociedad. You’d think this would be a given, as when Real Madrid loaned these two players to Levante and Sociedad respectively, it seemed like both would be sure starters; but it hasn’t been so cut-and-dry.
Mayoral has gradually lost his place to players like Morales and Roger Marti as the season has wore on (though he’s regained playing time after impressing a bit of late), and Theo missed five straight games (four due to suspension, and the fifth because Kevin Rodrigues earned the start at left back). Theo seems to be back in his starting role now.
Levante dominated possession early on, scored a vital early goal through Chema, and looked like the better team for most of this game. After scoring, they ceded possession a bit and defended well (as they generally have done under Paco Lopez), and they held Sociedad (who’ve been terribly underwhelming offensively this season, looking defanged for large stretches of this campaign) to zero shots on goal until Theo equalized in the 73rd minute. A moment where Levante switched off and Theo pounced:
Theo, along with Oyarzabal, was a rare source of offensive curation for Sociedad for the first 70 minutes of the game. He had Sociedad’s only two shots on goal until Juanmi scored the go-ahead in the 77th. He also threatened with two long distance shots from the left that went wide, and had a couple good dribbling sequences. Asier Garitano had Theo playing as left wing back tonight, and the Real Madrid loanee was often high up the pitch as Hector Moreno covered a lot on his own defensively.
To be fair, Sociedad as a whole were much better in the second half. Oyarzabal turned into another gear, Janujaz put in a beautiful assist for the 3 - 1 (and was able get past several challenges with his dribbling), and Juanmi changed the game with a goal off the bench, and was an important part of the build-up in the team’s third goal.
On the other side of things, Mayoral played as Levante’s spearhead in attack. He was the highest man in the press, and with the ball, looked to receive the ball centrally before distributing to the wings and making a run into the box to meet a cross (that often never came to him). He had a couple nice touches, but was a complete ghost in the second half:
Ultimately, this was more about Theo, who was a key cog in Sociedad’s win and eventual turnaround. He had 69 touches, four shots, and three completed dribbles.