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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 2 - 1 Leganes

Zidane rests a ton of players ahead of the second-leg clash against Bayern; and Real Madrid’s fringe players get the job done against a very good Leganes side.

Real Madrid v Leganes - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Real Madrid come away with a 2 - 1 victory over Leganes (Bale, Mayoral; Brasanac). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.

On a match without much meaning (a word used loosely, because Zidane still wants to finish second-place, and we’re all interested to track the development of fringe players who started this game), Real Madrid grind through. In the first-half, the team looked much more dynamic — attacking with flair, building vertically at every chance, and getting back in transition defensively. In the second half, that display waned, and Leganes grew into the game. Asier Garritano’s men outplayed Real Madrid in the final frame, and if not for some last ditch stops from Theo, Casemiro, Casilla, and others, this game would’ve ended in a draw, or worse.

We’re going to jump into the bullet points quickly here:

  • Zidane rolled out a traditional 4-4-2, with Borja Mayoral and Karim Benzema up top, Marcos Llorente and Mateo Kovacic in the middle, and Dani Ceballos and Gareth Bale on the flanks. Pacy young full-backs in Achraf and Theo slid in behind them, while Casemiro and Jesus Vallejo acted as the central defenders in front of Kiko Casilla.
  • It’s interesting that Kovacic played as the anchor, when that’s Llorente’s more natural position. They both played well, though. Marcos distributed the ball well, had good positioning defensively, and always looked to play the ball vertically — and even completed a roulette and four dribbles! Verticality, or ‘lack thereof’, was his main criticism at Alaves. It’s amazing what off-ball movement and better outlets in a better team does for you.
  • Kovacic, meanwhile, completed his first 50 passes, and remained a key distributor throughout.
  • Enjoyed how involved Dani Ceballos was. It’s nice to see him in a scheme that gets him ample touches and let’s him dictate the flow of the game. That’s generally what makes him so good. He had a couple shooting chances where he should’ve done better.
  • Right flank things: Bale and Ceballos were interchangeable at times, but mostly stuck to their flanks. On the right, Bale had an effect from deep, where he tracked to retain the ball and disposses players, while joining the attack often. His goal was a classic ‘L1 + X’ — making a square pass before darting into the box to finish a chance.
  • Behind Bale was Achraf, who had some good dynamism offensively. He also caught up to passes (and in one instance, his own poor / heavy touch) with sheer pace. His biggest question mark will come at the goal conceded, where he completely fell asleep in bizarre fashion:

You could argue Vallejo and Casemiro shouldn’t have let it through, but Achraf had all the time in the world to track Brasanac here — he had both positioning and time. He just, um, switched off.

  • The second half was crazy underwhelming, to be sure. Leganes were just better, and Real Madrid’s lack of hunger was disappointing. On to Bayern now.

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