It was a night to have their heads held high for Real Madrid after winning 4-2 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinal against Girona. While it didn’t immediately start off positively for Los Blancos, the end result is one that the club can be proud and confident of heading into the second leg.
Santi Solari went with the 4-3-3 tonight at the Bernabéu, a good mix of starters and some players who usually see the bench.
Things didn’t start off so great for Real Madrid as just 6 minutes in they had already conceded to Girona. As was mentioned in the immediate reaction earlier, Girona were lethal in that counter-attack on Lozano’s goal, but their defensive structure exposed them.
Nevertheless, Girona scored a nice goal here. Odriozola got caught, which forced Vazquez as the only man to trail back against left-back Raul Garcia. It was a good cross in for Alexander Lozano, who Marcelo had no chance of getting to and poorly covered.
Modric appeared to be take down in the box, but was not called so nor was VAR consulted for review. After replay, it clearly showed the correct non-call was made as the Girona defender got all-ball. Modric, though, was clearly furious no call was made.
It didn’t take too long for Real to get back in the match as they would equalize in the 18th minute of play. A fabulous run and pass in the box for Vazquez, which was all started from a great tackle by Casemiro on Alex Granell.
Real would get a couple of chances after this, but would not convert them to goals. It seemed like perhaps Real and Girona would go into the half squared at one apiece. That was until Vinicius made a good run and was dropped in the box.
The referee awarded Real Madrid the penalty kick and none other than the captain himself would step up to take it. And as he’s done so many times before, he does the Panenka and puts Real up 2-1 before the half. Ramos stays perfect on penalty kicks this season, 7-for-7.
You would think after awhile the Panenka would get old, but it most certainly doesn’t. Normally there’d be no need to replay a penalty kick, but these are always special. For your viewing pleasure....
Sergio Ramos with the panenka penalty to give Real Madrid the 2-1 lead over Girona! #Madrid #RealMadrid #RealMadridGirona pic.twitter.com/cNsEq8P6OY— Overtime Heroics (@OvertimeHeroics) January 24, 2019
Up 2-1, Real could confidently head back to the locker room with the lead and some confidence in their play. They certainly deserved the lead considering some of the chances they missed minus some defensive mistakes. A good performance overall in the first half of play.
There wouldn’t be anything by the way of goals until much later in the match. Real would bring the returning Toni Kroos and Marcos Llorente on during this time.
Llorente would not have the best return to action after being called for handball in the box in the 66th minute, not even ten minutes after being subbed on. It wasn’t the wisest of plays either, Marcos threw his arm straight up into the air as the cross was coming in, not a hard call to make. Granell would take the penalty and converted it to bring things back up squared 2-2.
Normally this would be concerning given how Real have played this season, but they refused to concede draw and pressed forward. 11 minutes after the penalty kick, Real would once again take the lead from another Ramos goal.
A wonderful cross from Marcelo right to a soaring Ramos who heads it into the right corner of the Girona net, a vintage Ramos header in late time just as he likes it. He proceeded to hit Ronaldo’s ‘Eu Estou Aqui” celebration, do his new handshake with Vazquez for the second time this match, and looked at the camera for the viewers at home and showed them a ‘call me’ and blew us all a kiss goodnight. What a legend.
Ramos would finish the match with the brace and the goal that broke the second deadlock.
Real weren’t finished when just three minutes later Benzema found the net. It was a tic-tac-toe play started by Vazquez initially. The subbed-on Isco would make the first play (tic). He would send it to Vinicius on the left side (tac). Vinicius would then send the low pass all the way to an open Benzema for the goal (and toe).
Benzema’s goal finished off a great night for Real Madrid, who battled back from an early concession and a penalty kick tie from Girona. There was a lot to be proud performance-wise, including that they will take a 4-2 aggregate lead to Catalunya next week.
Odriozola was an attacking machine tonight, his signing has truly paid off so far this season. He has been a nightmare in the Copa del Rey for opposing teams, already with 5 assists and goal in this competition. He and Marcelo did leave some desire defensively, but both of them on the offensive side of the ball were critical to Real’s attack against a vulnerable defensive structure from Girona.
You can see how much use Real got out of their wingbacks tonight from the club’s official heatmap.
Vinicius was also a clear standout, as he has been since starting once again. At the start of the season he was obviously not prepared for LaLiga just yet and got some much-needed development with the Castilla.
Due to all the injuries, Vinicius has now been relied on immensely and he hasn’t disappointed. He has been very impressive since starting recently and that shows a lot about his quality at just 18 years old. Obviously, there are still aspects that need to be worked on, specifically finishing, but the talent is very clearly there and he had himself another marquee performance against Girona.
Real play the second leg of this quarterfinal next Thursday the 31st, a week from today exactly. Going in to the Montilivi next week with a 4-2 lead is immense given Real’s road record this season. They did well in front of their home crowd tonight for sure.