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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 2 - 4 Atletico Madrid, UEFA Super Cup

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Real Madrid lose their first test of the season

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Super Cup Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

In Real Madrid’s most meaningful summer match until now — and biggest test, to be sure — Lopetegui’s men were bested in extra-time 2 - 4 (Benzema, Ramos; Costa x 2, Saul, Koke). This season is going to require a lot of patience, but there are encouraging things to take away, and a lot of kinks that need to be improved. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.

Bullet points from Kiyan’s notebook

  • Atletico started this match with pure adrenaline. Diego Costa’s goal in the first minute (where he uses two touches to take out Ramos and Varane — both a step slow and possibly half-asleep to start — before roofing it from an acute angle) was followed by a tremendous press from Simeone’s men. Marcelo, Kroos, and Isco — three of the most press-resistant players on earth — had a lot of difficulty escaping their flank deep. Atletico, in a weird twist, dominated possession early and counter-pressed high. At one point, Kroos was frustrated with the lack of outlets and started yelling at Casemiro’s positioning without the ball.

  • As the match wore on, Atleti’s press waned. They hedged into a deeper block and allowed Real Madrid some relief building from the back. Marcelo and Isco — particularly Marcelo — were key in breaking lines when lanes were clogged. Marcelo dribbled out of tight spaces and cut inside to cause Atleti’s defense to fold abit, and centrally, Kroos played very quick, vertical, and surgical passes to ensure there is a decisiveness to Real Madrid’s attack. Gareth Bale was key in taking out two players or more at once on the flank — case-in-point Real Madrid’s equalizing goal.

  • From Real Madrid’s equalizer, up until around the point where Diego Costa equalized at 2-2 in the 79th minute, momentum had swung. Real Madrid dominated possession and looked comfortable defending the counter-attack, getting some good work deep from Asensio, Bale, and Isco. There was a collective feel to both the attack and defense. Keep in mind that our expectations were not terribly high tonight, given that this was finally a really good test against a really good opponent, and Lopetegui’s scheme is still raw, as exciting as it is. It looked promising from Benzema’s goal until the end of the second half (the rest was just bad).
  • Classic Casemiro game — a lot of great, and a lot of puzzlingly bad. He had two shocking giveaways in the first half, and followed it by two epic tackles to win possession and launch counter-attacks. Overall, a lot more good than bad from him, and the team looked like they missed him when he left the pitch.
  • All four goals which Real Madrid conceded were entirely preventable. Ramos and Varane are normally better defending that first goal from Costa — and in Varane’s case, he’s more than quick enough to recover from a Diego Costa ‘explosive’ step — and Keylor let the ball go over him from a tight angle. Maybe that’s harsh on Keylor. But it could’ve been better. On Costa’s second goal, the ball somehow went through Navas, and neither Varane or Carvajal — both who were in position to get a foot on it — were quick enough to react to Costa’s aggressive pounce in the box. On the third goal, Varane just loses possession deep and can’t recover. On the fourth goal, while Real Madrid were trailing, the midfield pushed up, while those who were back defending collapsed onto the flank — leaving Koke wide open to finish a square pass.

  • Already kind of harped on this, but I liked Toni Kroos tonight. Elite distribution rate, always looking vertical, and a lot of important touches.
  • Classic Atleti: not doing much with the ball, but popping up to score when a goal is needed. This bullet point was written before extra-time, where they really went to another gear, and overall, thoroughly deserved this win.
  • Varane was busy clearing crosses, but just looked groggy and out of it. Unfortunate that he didn’t do better defending all three goals conceded. He just needed to do much better than he did. In extra time, he even started misplacing easy passes and making defensive slips like he just wanted to go home. World Cup hangover, I assume.
  • This team, in extra-time, just looked completely defanged and checked out. They ended regulation with a beautiful counter involving Ceballos and Bale, which Marcelo couldn’t capitalize on. With that chance gone, Atleti regrouped and put pressure on Real Madrid’s defenders. Once Saul scored the third, Real Madrid looked out of it, and Koke’s goal just sealed it.