Real Madrid returned to La Liga action after a wild 5-3 victory over Betis on the weekend. It would be a short nine mile trip south to Butarque to face Leganes in a mid-week clash. Zidane was without the injured Vallejo, Kroos, Marcelo, and Modric. The rotations continued despite the injuries, Gareth Bale started the match on the bench and Cristiano Ronaldo was left out of the squad all together. The in-form duo of Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez would have another opportunity to strut their stuff from the start and neither disappointed. Madrid played their best football in the first half, coming back from a losing position for the third consecutive game. Lucas and Casemiro would get on the scoresheet with Benzema and Kovacic helping to set up those goals. The second half was lethargic and Madrid grinded out the result. Unfortunately there would be no significant game time for Ceballos and Llorente.
Kiko Casilla—5.5: Leganes scored within the opening ten minutes. Casilla made the initial save after Ramos was beat to a header on a corner kick. Though, the save was fumbled and fell to X who put the ball in the back of the net. Made a crucial save halfway through the second half against Beauvue, who was inside the six yard box.
Dani Carvajal—7: Solid performance from the former youth-teamer. Carvajal and Lucas have a great understanding and Dani looked to overlap with every opportunity. Shut down Leganes’ left side.
Raphael Varane—7: The best of the defenders, the Frenchman was rock solid in the back. Had one lapse where Beauvue managed to beat him to a cross, but Casilla bailed him out.
Sergio Ramos—6: Was beaten to the ball by Bustinza on the opening goal. He was outmuscled and late to the ball and Leganes took advantage. Recovered from that early lapse and did well to keep El Zhar and Beauvue quiet. Stepped up to take the 90th minute penalty and dispatched it well, giving Madrid a 3-1 score line.
Theo—6: Arguably could have done more to prevent Leganes’s opening goal. El Zhar easily found his way in between the gap that Ramos and Theo left between them. Switched off a number of times defensively and failed to communicate with Asensio. Improved dramatically in the second half and put in some well-timed tackles. Offensively, showed flashes of his blazing speed and stay composed with his passes even when under pressure.
Casemiro—7: Kovacic comes deep to pick up the ball forcing Casemiro to push up the field and occupy the attacking space. This often causes frustration for fans, but Case scored one of the best team goals this season via his link up play in the #10 role of all positions. Had a great first half, but like the rest of the team trailed off in the second and looked tired.
Casemiro scores by being the link-up man just two minutes after Om tweeted this!!!! 1-2!!! https://t.co/1UZa1JDHN1— Managing Madrid (@managingmadrid) February 21, 2018
Mateo Kovacic—8.5: Demonstrated his immense ball carrying ability all evening with his drives through the midfield. Set-up Madrid’s opening goal with a threaded pass to Lucas Vazquez. He had the best passing accuracy of any Madrid player in the first half. Earned a late penalty kick again after one of his driving runs.
Isco—5.5: Interchanged positions with Asensio to great effect in the first half. Was one of many whose performance dropped in the second half. Looked tired and failed to make a material impact on the game.
Lucas Vazquez—8.5: Immediate response after going down. Vazquez took his goal really well. Was slipped through by Kovacic and even unbalanced, found the bottom corner. Adding to his two assist over the weekend, Vazquez form has been excellent and his end product has been amongst the best in the squad. His production would not stop with the goal, it was his first time pass that led to Casmiro’s goal. His defensive work was equally as impressive. Shut down Rico and solidified that right flank with Carvajal.
10- Only Cristiano Ronaldo (10 and 2) has been involved in more goals for Real Madrid than Lucas Vazquez (4 goals, 6 assists) in 2018 in all competitions. Ray. pic.twitter.com/QphYSvZaDd— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 21, 2018
Marco Asensio—7: Looks to be growing in confidence and form with each passing game. Had some nice touches and good movements, especially in the first half but just lacked the final ball.
Karim Benzema—6.5: If there was ever evidence of what Karim Benzema can bring to this team when his personal goal count is lacking it was displayed in the form of the second Madrid goal. His link up play was world class as he orchestrated the Madrid attack. Like most of the team, was quiet in the second half.
Gareth Bale—7: Had a few blistering runs that nearly resulted in a goal. His vision and passing were a breath of fresh air to a dull and lethargic second half.
Marcos Llorente—N/A: Brought on in the 85th minute.
Dani Ceballos—N/A: Brought on to play the last ten seconds of the game.
Zinedine Zidane—6: Grinded out another win and the team showed character for the third game in a row to come back from a losing position. Implemented a 4-2-3-1 with Kovacic and Casemiro the two deepest players in midfield. Continues to show great faith in Lucas and Asensio who have repaid the mister with solid performances the past few weeks. The team lacked intensity in the second half and fresh and hungry players like Marcos Llorente and Dani Ceballos could have been given more minutes. As many have pointed out, Zidane likely embarrassed Ceballos by putting him in for the last 13 seconds of the game.
MOTM: Lucas Vazquez
Lucas Vazquez production has been immense in the last few weeks. Racking up the goals and assists. If he keeps it up, could he be a surprise inclusion in the Spain squad?— Matt Wiltse (@MattWiltse4) February 21, 2018