After the drama of a midweek Champions League clash with Juventus, Zidane’s men returned to La Liga with a trip to Malaga. Key players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, and Raphael Varane were left back in Madrid. This meant there were rotations in the lineup: Theo, Vallejo, Kovacic, Vazquez, and Asensio all featured. The game lacked any sense of urgency or importance, but Madrid rolled up their sleeves and ultimately got the job done. The result was made to look easy thanks to a superb performance from the in-form Isco. Full ratings below:
Keylor Navas—9: Made a crucial save after a Casemiro blunder. Destroyed Vallejo when coming out to punch a dangerous Rolan cross and without Keylor’s intervention Malaga likely would have equalized. All in all had a great performance and can take no blame in the last minute goal.
Dani Carvajal—7: Constantly marauded up the right flank and overlapping Lucas Vazquez to swing in one of his deadly crosses. His forward pushing runs forced the likes of Rolan and Adrian to track back and force Malaga into a shell.
Jesus Vallejo—7.5: Superb performance— cool and composed as we have grown accosted to seeing with this mature 21 year old. Was assured in his passing and hounded Rolan all evening, never allowing the Venezuelan to turn with ease. The one blip on his record will be the last minute goal in stoppage time from Malaga. Rolan put Vallejo off and the cross seemed to go through his legs and the Venezuelan punished Madrid.
Sergio Ramos—8.5: Leader of men. Put his body on the line on multiple occasions to block shots, had a last ditch toe poke in the first half to fend off an almost certain goal had it gone though, and helped shepard young Vallejo and Theo through the game.
Theo—5: Not a highlight game for Theo. Had some sloppy touches and sloppy passes which gave away possession.
Casemiro—6.5: Teams are really starting to apply pressure to the Brazilian and he has struggled to cope. Gave the ball away dangerously in the first half, but Keylor Navas came up big to spare the Brazilians blushes. Produced a better performance in the second half and even nabbed a goal after Benzema and Isco laid it on a plate for the Brazilian to tap home. Credit to the Brazilian who started the play by hounding Malaga and winning possession through his interception.
Mateo Kovacic—7.5: Another solid outing for Mateo. Played a bit deeper with Casemiro, but when Madrid pressed could be found hounding Miguel Torres. His passes were crisped and precise, helping to advance Madrid’s play forward. Just missed Lucas Vazquez with a beautiful through-ball which would have been the goal of the game.
Isco—9: Everything that was positive ran through Isco. Sprayed long balls, slipped through balls between the Malaga defense, relieved pressure, and opened the scoring with a gorgeous free kick. Racked up an outside of the foot assist with a pass across goal to give Casemiro an easy tap-in. Beginning to show that form which made him untouchable last season and certainly felt at home in Malaga.
Lucas Vazquez—6: Constant runner down the right flank and works tirelessly defensively, produced a great one time pass to play Benzema through for Casemiro’s goal. Seemed to tire by the end of the game and have the ball away needlessly on a number of occasions.
Marco Asensio—6.5: Interchanged positions with Isco often in attempt to get in the ball and influence the game. Those two in particular combined well. Always looks to measure his crosses, but they were a little off the mark tonight.
Karim Benzema—7: Was fundamental in facilitating the second goal. Helped spur on a number of counter attacking opportunities and pressed well from the front. As always, was vital in connecting play and linking with his teammates through the middle of the field. Though, more than ever, lacks that killer instinct. Gets himself in good positions, but doesn’t show the same desire or aggression to score goals as a certain Portuguese player. Obviously, that burdened is relived when Cristiano plays, but as one of the veterans tonight, would have expected him to step up and tuck one of his chances.
Dani Ceballos—7.5: Almost made an immediate impact after connecting with Isco on a corner and beating two men on the dribble to nearly set up Benzema with Malaga putting in a last second intervention. Played on the left side of midfield and looked to get on the ball as often as possible. There is magic in those boots, it’s a shame we have not had the opportunity to see more of it this season.
Borja Mayoral—6.5: Had a few good combinations with his mentor Benzema and brought an upbeat energy to the front line. Was played through by Lucas Vazquez but took his shot early and drilled it straight at Roberto. Worked very hard defensively.
Zinedine Zidane—7: Will not be a game that lives long in the memory, but Zidane and his men got the job done while resting key players like Ronaldo and Modric. Started in a 4-2-3-1 and switched to a 4-1-4-1 in the second half in order to press Malaga. That decision resulted in the second goal and in essence the end of the game. Gave minutes to Ceballos and Mayoral, but surprising not to see Llorente or Achraf also included amongst the substitutes.