Real Madrid dismantle an in-form Alaves side, beating them 4-0 (Ronaldo x2, Bale, Benzema) at the Bernabeu. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.
Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo all started together in Real Madrid’s front three for the first time this season at the Bernabeu. It took them (and the team) some time to wake up, but eventually they cruised, and put their foot on an in-form Alaves side who couldn’t cope with Real Madrid’s counter-attacks and movement in the final third.
Karim Benzema played one of his best games this season. After an unfortunate start, where the French striker slipped trying to convert a clear-cut chance on a counter-attack started by Mateo Kovacic, he recovered by slinging two assists and scoring a penalty kick late. The first assist — a clever flick in the box to an open Ronaldo; and the second after dispossessing an Alaves player and playing in Gareth Bale through on goal.
Benzema had the most key passes (six) of anyone on the field, and was incisive all-around. Bale, who had some heavy touches early, also looked good in his role today — he played a bit deeper, helped defensively, and was more active. He’s much more suited in this scheme than he is in a 4-4-2, where he’s an isolated passenger. Cristiano Ronaldo continues to show good form.
There is not a huge amount to report on, and I had my hands full running the Managing Madrid Twitter account today, so most of the analysis will come on the post-game podcast. But here are some quick bullet points from my notebook:
- This was the third successive match where we save a Casemiro - Kovacic double-pivot, and in all three matches, there were three separate variations of players around them. This one, as well as the 4-2-3-1 against Leganes, were much more conducive to the team’s shape than the 4-4-2 against Betis where both central midfielders were spread thin.
- Important defensively: Lucas Vazquez (tremendous defending the flanks, especially when both Sobrino and Pedraza were looking to attack on the counter) and Casemiro made several (six) key interventions. Keylor Navas continues to be stellar this season.
- Theo Hernandez had some heavy ball control, which on separate occassions, stifled attacks and caused the team to concede chances from deep, but overall he had an improved game, and there were even instances where we say ‘Alaves Theo’ where he bombed through several players on the flank like the bowling ball he is.
- Again, Kovacic was an important funnel — a ball-carrier in transition and an instigator building from the back. Nice to see him provide really important minutes in the absence of key midfield cogs.
- Dani Ceballos played 17 (!) minutes. Marcos Llorente with 10.