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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 0 - 3 CSKA Moscow

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Bad transition defending, toothless finishing, and a heavy home defeat

Real Madrid v CSKA Moscow - UEFA Champions League Group G Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Real Madrid lose to CSKA Moscow 0 - 3 (Chalov, Shchennikov, Sigurosson) in the last match of the group stages of the Champions League. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.


For the second time this season, Real Madrid lose against CSKA Moscow, who are the only team in Europe this season to have not only beat Madrid twice, but also keep them scoreless. For context, only twice in the last 33 Champions League matches have Real Madrid not scored — both coming against CSKA this season.

Earlier this season in Moscow, CSKA put together one of the better defensive schemes Real Madrid faced this campaign. They denied any half-space runs, and moved in unison to plug the flanks. In this match, they didn’t defend as well as we’ve seen them prior, as Real had plenty of opportunities in transition through Asensio and Vincius Jr, but Moscow did do a great job of securing the wings and denying overloads from Odriozola and Marcelo.

Real Madrid, who fielded a nice array of young talent, couldn’t take advantage of any of their first half attacking sequences, and they just didn’t get enough offense outside of Asensio and Vinicius, as Benzema (who was taken off a half-time for Gareth Bale) and Isco weren’t involved in many attacks, and Marcelo and Odriozola couldn’t get in good positions. While Real Madrid dominated the ball, they looked vulnerable in transition, and on both goals conceded in the first half, players were out of position as the team scrambled desperately.

On CSKA’s first goal, Javi Sanchez and Marcelo both hedged centrally while defending the counter, leaving Chalov in a good position:

The entire left-flank collapsed on Moscow’s second goal:

Maybe the scoreline was harsh, but all in all, Real Madrid deserved to lose. They only had two clear-cut chances (Asensio and Isco), and couldn’t polish their possession into something productive nor did they look sharp defensively. Maybe some complacency kicked in while CSKA pushed for a Europa League spot — but it wasn’t a good look.

Of some consolation, Fede Valverde looked really good tonight, particularly with his quick passing, long-range distribution, and positioning to snuff CSKA counters. Asensio looked really sharp offensively (apart from his finishing), and Vinicius, though clearly not a polished or efficient player yet, looked to create danger and was positive in attack.

Om Arvind and I will break this down in more detail on tonight’s podcast.