Real Madrid win 0 - 3 away to Las Palmas (Gareth Bale x 2, Karim Benzema). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.
Las Palmas walked into this match wounded. They are almost surely going down (although a win against Levante next weekend might at least make the relegation battle interesting), they had just lost their best player (and one of La Liga’s best passers in the final third) in Jonathan Viera; Paco Jemez had just verbally abused their team, saying it’s the worst side (later he clarified it was the worst attack) that he’s ever managed, and Tana — the best player to fill in for Viera — was omitted from the squad entirely. To throw some more fuel on his own fire, Jemez played his famed high line.
Enter Gareth Bale, sliding in on the left flank to play off the shoulder of the defender. As Dortmund learned in the past two seasons, playing a high line against Real Madrid generally doesn’t go unpunished. Las Palmas caught Bale offside twice, but give a team enough chances, and they’ll catch you:
Goal! Gareth Bale 0-1 #LPARMA #LasPalmasRealMadrid pic.twitter.com/h3VavYoXpG— EMR (@EnModeReplay) March 31, 2018
That pass was on often, and Modric and Casemiro both had plenty of time to pick Bale’s runs out throughout the first half.
Generally, this wasn’t a terribly difficult match given Las Palmas’ state. Jemez’s men didn’t threaten much, other than the odd Halilovic or Calleri cut-in. Defensively they made silly mistakes, giving away two penalties. There was no need for Calleri to come through Lucas Vazquez here, where a simple containing-defensive-stance would’ve sufficed:
GOAL: @Lucasvazquez91 draws the penalty, and @Benzema buries it! @realmadriden take a 2-0 lead. #LasPalmasRealMadrid pic.twitter.com/V9ua53cgXd— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) March 31, 2018
The second half was strange, to be sure. Las Palmas faced waves of attacks while their defense started to dissipate. But in a classic case of being in a pick-up game where the match is too easy, and options are overloading your brain, Real Madrid couldn’t take advantage and score more goals. Bale, Vazquez, Asensio, and Benzema had plenty of chances to run at Las Palmas, but they were either caught offside, made the wrong pass, or couldn’t finish their chances. It didn’t move the needle either way — the match was done at half-time.
There was not a huge amount to dissect from this match, given what was at stake. We’ll break it down, sure, but this was always about having one eye on Juventus. Modric and Casemiro were taken off around the hour mark, a bunch of players (Isco, Ramos, Kroos, Cristiano, Marcelo, Carvajal) got rest, and it was great to see Jesus Vallejo get the full 90 here.
One damper: Nacho was substituted in the first half, appearing to be in a lot of discomfort. There was a lot conspiracy on Twitter about it being personal issues or a heat stroke (I mean, Gran Canaria is warm, but it’s less than 20 degrees this time of year), but the report came out by half-time that it’s a right leg injury — specifically his hamstring. It was strange that he went to the bench and sat sulking the entire half, not receiving any medical attention in the process. This was the very first injury of Nacho’s career. It goes without saying, but hopefully he recovers quickly and swiftly.