A charged Estadio Santiago Bernabeu witnessed an eventful match riddled with plenty of storylines as Real Madrid took away three points against a very good Real Sociedad side.
It was hard to see the game be anything less than eventful. There were too many sub-plots intertwined for it to fail. It was Martin Odegaard’s homecoming, and the entire crowd was waiting for the moment Gareth Bale entered the game to voice their thoughts on his momentous international break.
The game did not disappoint, nor did it get any easier when Sergio Ramos gave Real Sociedad a goal in the second minute, allowing La Real to double down on their sound defensive structure:
Real Madrid’s response from that unideal moment was good, but so was Real Sociedad’s. Good things were brewing for both teams. For Real Madrid, Eden Hazard’s line-breaking ability with his twists and turns on the ball gave Zidane’s men a way out of Imanol Alguacil’s press. If it wasn’t that, it was a ball from Varane or Ramos over the top of the Real Sociedad midfield, or Benzema dropping deep to start the counter.
Zidane’s men were also vulnerable in transition. While Casemiro had two really good interventions which got Real Madrid into good attacking positions, some of their defensive gambles on step-ups left Odegaard free in open water.
Odegaard was really good in those situations. He was composed on the ball, and some of his touches to buy himself time and space gave Real Madrid difficulty in transition.
A lot of Real Madrid’s attacks came through crosses from the right (Modric, Rodrygo, and Carvajal combined for 14 of them in the first half alone). While the quality of those in-swinging balls were good — Real Sociedad were able to pick them off easily.
Finally, Aguacil’s men were punished from a set-piece. Benzema is, um, now scoring with his chest:
In the second half, Real Madrid went into another gear altogether, and completely blitzed Real Sociedad on the counter. Part of La Real’s collapse in their structure came down to an early goal from Fede Valverde which came out of almost nothing:
Fede Valverde does it again! The Uruguayan has been one of the stars of Real Madrid's season and this is why. 2-1 Madrid.— Strive Sport (@strivesport) November 23, 2019
The present and the future of Real Madrid. #LiveOnStrive pic.twitter.com/OdctegNC2E
Both Benzema and Rodrygo started to really be dangerous with the new-found space after the go-ahead goal. Ferland Mendy’s overloads in the second half became a real source of offense.
Amid all of it, Gareth Bale started warming up, and not long after, the Welshman was brought on the field for Rodrygo. As Bale stepped up to the sideline, the Bernabeu erupted with whistles. When Rodrygo’s number was called, he was met with a standing ovation and chants of his name. That symphony quickly flipped into malice when it was Bale’s turn to enter the field. Four of the Managing Madrid crew were at the stadium tonight, and as we can all attest, the jeers were deafening.
But Bale’s entrance made for a really fun finish to the game. His touches were met with whistles, but he was a huge part of Real Madrid’s third goal, where he made a sprinting off-ball run down the right. The Welshman’s cross was met with a calculated cut-back header from Benzema to Modric, who did this sorcery:
Bale was dangerous for his entire cameo. He nearly scored on a solo run in a tight spot on the baseline. He may not have silenced the noise, but he (and Zidane) both made a statement to those who thought so firmly that Bale would never play for the club again.
We’ll break this down in the coming hours. The post-game podcast will be tomorrow night, live from the Irish Rover in Madrid.