La Liga returns to the Bernabeu! After narrowly beating mighty Eibar at the Ipura last weekend, Madrid returned home to take on Girona. Pablo Machin’s men proved to be tricky opponents earlier in the season with their 3-4-3 formation outwitting and outplaying the boys in white. Zidane would be looking to put those demons to rest and rolled out a 4-4-2, with two way wingers in Lucas V and Marco Asensio helping to solidify the flanks. What a wild game it turned out to be—a nine goal thriller. Cristiano scored four, Toni Kroos and Kovacic pulled the strings, and the defense had to deal with two menacing threats in Portu and Stuani.
Madridistas! This is our starting XI for tonight's LaLiga match against @GironaFC!#RMMovistar | #HalaMadrid pic.twitter.com/5UpndJt54k— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) March 18, 2018
Keylor Navas—6.5: Commanded his box and never showed any fear to attack the ball and come off his line. Dealt well with some difficult passes back to him. Ultimately will be disappointed to have conceded three goals. His defense was not set up properly and part of that blame can fall on the manager, but in the game it’s up to the goalkeeper to right those wrongs and make the adjustments necessary to prevent those goals. All three Girona goals came from set pieces.
Dani Carvajal—5.5: Battled with Mojica all night. Was relentless in his drive to win the ball, but gave away an unnecessary foul against Portu prior to Girona’s first half equalizer. He failed to track Stuani after being picked and the Uruguayan buried his header into the back of the net. Again on Girona’s second goal— again a set piece and again Carvajal being out-jumped by Stuani. Questions can be asked why he was asked to mark the Uruguayan on set pieces.
Raphaël Varane—8: So classy. His touch, his composure, and his confidence were all on full display. Dealt well with the threat from Portu and Stuani. Can take no blame in the three goals conceded.
Nacho—6.5: A solid game from the Spaniard, but was kept busy by a fireball of a player in Portu. Won most of his aerial duels, but was exposed on the third set piece goal as he got caught ball watching.
Marcelo—7.5: Linked up well down the left flank with Asensio, Benzema, and Ronaldo. Had a few well timed tackles and did well to lessen the threat imposed by Maffeo.
Mateo Kovacic—8.5: The Croatian is now seriously competing for a spot in the starting XI. With every passing game, he continues to impress and continues to grow in confidence. Be it his ball carrying ability, his press-resistance, his well time tackles, or his crisp passing—the Croatian has all the tools to be a great.
Toni Kroos—9.5: Everything ran through Kroos. Played very deep to pick up the ball and orchestrate each Madrid attack. It was his quick, short corner out to Marcelo which he immediately received back and then rolled the ball to a lurking Cristiano who buried the first goal. Then, his second assist would be disallowed after Lucas V’s goal was wrongly called offside. Kroos has played a beautiful defense splitting pass. Eventually earned another assist for Ronaldo’s fourth.
Lucas Vazquez—8: After beautiful link up play, Lucas was played through 1v1 and failed to convert. Would get another opportunity and did not fail a second time. Kroos slipped Lucas through and the former Cantera man buried into the side corner. The goals would be wrongly disallowed. The Third time would be the charm, as Ronaldo set up the Spaniard after great play from Benz and Marcelo. Lucas slotted home the third with great composure and continued his fine form before heading off to La Seleccion.
Marco Asensio—8:: One of the brightest lights in the opening minutes. He was everywhere, gliding all across the field. His passing and movement was fluid through the middle as he often tucked in slightly from his left midfield position. Worked hard to play in between the lines and then spurt back out to the wing. Came close with a brilliant curling free kick from 30 yards out.
Karim Benzema—8: Played as a 10 throughout most of the game looking to facilitate ball movement and link all the different parts of the Madrid attack. His touch and vision looked good, and early in the second half he found the key with a delicate pass into Ronaldo’s path for Madrid to retake the lead. Would again be the architect of the third goal. Linked up down the left with Marcelo and put a beautiful cross in for Ronaldo who found Lucas to slot home the third. All in all a good game for Karim, but will be upset about not finding the back of the net.
Cristiano Ronaldo—10: No one has better off the ball movement than Ronaldo. He displays it game after game. Tonight would be no different, it would only take 10 minutes before Cristiano made enough space in the box to bury the ball in the back of the net off a short corner. His insatiable drive to lead the pichichi race meant one goal would not be enough. Picked up his second right at the start of the second half after being slipped through by Karim Benzema. It wasn’t all just goals from the Portuguese. Unselfishly set up Lucas for the team’s third. And was there any doubting he’d get his hat trick? Like the poacher that he is, was all over Benzema’s rebound and smashed the ball in for his third and the team’s fourth. In his past 8 games, Ronaldo has scored 17 goals. He is on another level, even for him. Completed his poker after a perfect incision pass through the defense from Kroos. Ronaldo is back to his very best.
Luka Modric—7: Quiet 15 minute cameo from Luka by that was in large part due to the good play of Girona. When he did get on the ball, he was smooth and composed as usual. It was his pass that found Gareth for Madrid’s fifth goal of the evening.
Gareth Bale—7: Madrid were pinned back by Girona in the dying 15 minutes dispite the introduction of Luka and Gareth. But with one attack, Madrid restores their three goal lead. It would be the two substitutes. Modric fed Gareth who was onside and slipped his right footed shot past Bounou. Gareth had a few good runs which showed off his speed and the weapon that he is down the left flank.
Isco—5.5: Was brought on in the 81st minute and had little time to make an impact.
Zinedine Zidane—7: Tough to grade Zidane on this performance, but man was it an entertaining game. The team seems to be clicking gears in attack, with Cristiano back to his other-worldly form. Zizou rewarded his men in form—Kovacic, Lucas, and Asensio each earning a start and each played well. The blemish on Zidane’s record will be the three goals conceded—all from set pieces. Carvajal was not a good match up with Stuani and it was exposed on two occasions. A switch in marks should have been made at halftime. The lack of concentration on set pieces will be a concern and something the Frenchman must address before the clash with Juventus.
MOTM: Cristiano Ronaldo