Everytime you think this Madrid team is turning a corner, they prove you wrong. They make sure you don’t forget there are major structural issues and even more importantly major mental issues—lapses in concentration, lack of confidence, and poor leadership. For the first 30 minutes of the game, Madrid were dominant and looked to be continue their good form from the last few La Liga matches. A late goal in the first half from Levante turned the tide and Madrid’s mental vulnerability became apparent. They fell apart. The second half was a back-and-forth, end-to-end game. Real Madrid had good opportunities to pull away, but Levante were a constant threat on the counter. Each time Madrid took the lead, they looked like they could concede at a moments notice.
Keylor Navas—8: Made a great save on the original 1v1 with Morales, but the rebound fell to Boateng who slotted the ball into the bottom corner. Unfortunate for Keylor who had little to do the entire first half and then his defense had a lapse in concentration. Made huge saves time and time again, but this team let Costa Rican down. It’s mental lapse after mental lapse. Madrid is so fragile mentally and the damage from this season continues to run riot.
Dani Carvajal—6: Provided the width early in the game when Levante played with a back five and defended in a deep block. His understanding with Bale and Modric is second to none—linking up with both the Croatian and the Welshman whenever he marauds up the field. In the second half, the whole team failed to perform aside from Modric. Carvajal may take some of the blame on the second equalizer as the defense was in shambles. Ramos stayed high, Varane deep, and Carvajal caught in between looking to catch Pazzinni who already made his way through the Madrid backline.
Raphael Varane—6: Out of the center back partnership, Varane was far better than Ramos tonight but their communication was awful. On Levante’s second goal, Varane and Ramos failed to establish a concrete defensive line—one was high, while the other deep meaning Levante could slip through with ease.
Sergio Ramos—4.5: At last, Sergio scores from a corner kick! He leaped high enough while being sandwiched by two Levante players and smacked a bouncing header into the back of the net. His goal would be nullified in large part due to a Ramos mistake. Lost concentration while in transition and both his feet and hips were square, meaning his positioning was off and he could not adjust his body in time to catch up to Morales. Then again, Ramos had a lapse on Levante’s second goal. He and Varane were on completely different lines making it simple for Pazzini to slip through on-side.
Where was Ramos there? Varane about 10 yards further back, meaning easy enough to play Pazzini in behind Carvajal... super finish tho.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) February 3, 2018
Marcelo—4: Levante started the match with five in the back and both Marcelo and Carvjal had to provide the width. After a few rough touches and a mistimed slide tackle early in the match, Marcelo became more of an X factor. His combination play with Karim Benzema down the left was a joy to watch though he probably should have scored his opportunity. Then like a flip of the switch, the second half transpired and Madrid lost all control and all discipline. Marcelo was caught out time and time again with his defensive gambles and continues to be a liability for the team.
Casemiro—4.5: Cleaned up his passing tonight with quick one and touch two passes out of the middle. Levante clearly had a plan to press Casemiro, but the Brazilian did well to find and connect simple passes quickly. Though, he struggled to perform at the defensive level expected of him. Levante was able to counter and slice through Madrid with ease in the second half. Casemiro’s number one priority is to stop counter attacks and slow the oppositions attack. Unfortunately tonight he was not up to the task. The Brazilian had zero fouls committed in the match—that’s not a good thing. Fouls can be tactical. They help break up the game, slow down an opposition’s momentum, and most importantly impede oncoming counter attacks.
Still too easy to break on this side. For me, that HAS to be Casemiro's role. He absolutely has to dedicate himself to collecting and recirculating loose and contested balls. Prevent the hard counter at all costs.— GWL (@ElEzrah) February 3, 2018
Luka Modric—8.5: Best player on the pitch and best player on this team. Operating a bit higher up the pitch in the 4-3-3 formation and is able to have a greater impact on Madrid’s attack in the final third. Gareth Bale made a few incisive runs through the levanter back-line and Modric is able to place a precision pass into the Welshman. His untracked runs between the opposition’s left full back and left center back are a constant threat and gives a different edge to the Madrid attack. When Madrid were chasing the game late in the second half, Modric was everywhere—creating chances and stopping counter attacks. He is the one player who can stand up and be accounted for after tonight’s match.
Modric on one play making key passes high up the pitch, and on the next sequence the deepest outfield player stopping a counter-attack.— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) February 3, 2018
Nothing he can't do.
Toni Kroos—5: Not at the level expected of him. His pressing seems to have improved in this match, but the rest of the team was not on the same page as Toni. He had some sloppy passes and did not deliver any clear cut chances for teammates.
Gareth Bale—6.5: Active and involved throughout the match. Gareth looks to be growing in confidence and fitness with each passing match. The right side trio of Bale-Modric-Carvajal has a wonderful understanding. His influence waned a bit in the second half, but in large part it was due to the loss of control and poor performance of the team as a whole. Zidane substituted Gareth in the 65th minute.
Karim Benzema—7: A solid performance from Karim. He and Marcelo had an interchange of three quick one-two’s early in the first half, bamboozling the Levante defense and almost resulting in a goal for the Brazilian. Sliced through the entire Levante back line and nearly scored a beautiful goal, but his shot skipped past the near post. He did ultimately produce a well timed pass for Isco to bury in the back of the net.
Cristiano Ronaldo—4: Poor game from the Portuguese. Had a very limited impact and few goal-scoring opportunities. Was substituted by Zidane in the 81st minute and did not look amused.
Marco Asensio—5: Came on for Cristiano with ten minutes to prove he deserves more minutes. Had one counter-attacking opportunity to try and push Madrid ahead with a third goal and shanked his cross.
Isco—7: Many questioned the substitution as Gareth Bale looked dangerous on the night and the inclusion of Isco meant the return of the diamond formation. Isco looked determine to make an impact and did just that. Got on the ball as much as possible and eventually was found by Karim Benzema—Isco controlled and took his goal well.
Lucas Vazquez—N/A: Came on in the last few minutes after Levante equalized.
Zinedine Zidane—4: The team played well in the first half, especially the opening 30 minutes. They looked both confident and in control. All hell broke lose in the second half. As has been the case all season, there was very little tactical discipline and Levante was able to counter and blaze past Madrid’s midfield with one pass. The substitution of Gareth Bale was extremely questionable. Isco performed well, but Casemiro would have been a better option to take off, dropping Kroos deeper. The return of the diamond meant the flanks were vulnerable. Levante took advantage and pinned Madrid back. The team lack the mental fortitude to finish teams off and that falls solely on Zidane. He needs to find the solution and fast.
MOTM: Luka Modric