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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 4 - 2 Granada

An eventful game which Real Madrid dominated for the most part. Hazard scores his first goal, and James marks his first since returning from Bayern.

Real Madrid CF v Granada CF - La Liga Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid beat Granada 4 - 2 (Benzema, Hazard, Modric, James; Machis, Duarte). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.

There was a certain focus to Zidane’s men today that weathered the lingering storm from the first half against Club Brugge. Granada, coming into this as one of the best-performing teams in La Liga until now, were paralyzed, and forced to spend the majority of the game chasing Real Madrid’s attacks; while barely struggling to progress the ball forward in any meaningful way.

Real Madrid’s defense held up well for three-quarters of this game. Varane and Casemiro combined well to close down Granada’s attacks down the flank anytime Alvaro Odriozola went up the field (if Odriozola himself didn’t track back well, which he did), and Carvajal, who was today’s makeshift left-back, was really good defensively — and like the game against Sevilla, won possession and moved into the box as an outlet, getting into good goalscoring positions.

Part of the team’s defensive energy came from Fede Valverde. He’s so good at getting the crowd behind him with his relentless pressing and ability to win the ball high up the pitch. Offensively, his passing still needs some work, but he set-up Hazard’s first goal of the season with a really good run:

That goal from Hazard, brilliant and all, was much needed. He was one of the few players struggling the first half. Again, his touches looked off, his passing off the mark (even routine ones), and his body language looked zapped of confidence.

But that goal to make it 2 - 0, just before the half, capped a great opening frame from Zidane’s men — one that started beautifully with this Benzema goal after 50 seconds thanks to a brilliantly-curved outside-of-the-boot pass from Gareth Bale:

The second half was more complicated for Real Madrid. Modric (who came in for an injured Kroos in the first half) made it 3 - 0 with, quite literally, the perfect shot — but the team also surrendered its three-goal lead quickly as Areola’s nonchalance led to a penalty conceded, and Granada scored a second goal shortly after from a corner kick. At that point, it was 3 - 2, which meant we ere about to go through a familiar (and unnecessary) uncomfortable finish at the Bernabeu.

Amid the chaos, where Granada grew in confidence in the final third, while conceding plenty of counters, Isco and James entered the pitch for Hazard and Bale. Isco’s entrance started off with two (perhaps understandably) rusty passes — an overhit through-ball, and a bad giveaway deep which led to a Granada free-kick from a dangerous position. But he grew into the game, and was involved in Real Madrid’s counter-attacks.

Also heavily involved: Alvaro Odriozola, who was busy intercepting passes out of the back and darting back up the field to act as an outlet and put in cut-backs from the right. James’s energy off the bench was great throughout as he spend most of his time on the left flank. It was Odriozola and James who combined for Real Madrid’s fourth goal of the game:

That marks James’s first goal since his return from Bayern.

Om and I will break this down in more detail in the post-game podcast.

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