A goalless draw at the Bernabeu. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, post-game quotes, tactical review, and more.
Thrice Real Madrid were denied by the crossbar. Once they were rebuffed by a goal-line clearance. And beyond that, Real Madrid had waves (and waves) of attack without any goals. The other way, they limited Athletic’s attack efficiently, and both Sergio Ramos and Eder Militao mopped up any chance that an isolated Iñaki Williams could single-handedly muster. Fede Valverde, the deepest midfielder of Zidane’s trio in the middle, did not feel much pressure, and could join the team’s counter-press often.
There wasn’t a whole lot Real Madrid did wrong as they dropped two points at the Bernabeu today, other than not put the ball in the back of the net. It’s not that the effort wasn’t there. There was life in Zidane’s team on the pitch, but Athletic played deep and compact. Real Madrid created several good chances with players dribbling in the box — namely through Vinicius Jr — or runs into the half-spaces from Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, and Luka Modric. Gaizka Garitano’s men got lucky not conceding at least twice tonight, and on other occassions, their deep block forced Real Madrid to go wide and hit crosses into the box.
People will point to Real Madrid’s crossing numbers (over 30 at the time of writing this) and complain. That might be harsh. There was rarely a passing sequence where Real Madrid didn’t at least try to break Athletic down the middle. And, to reiterate, they did break Garitano’s men down several times, but just couldn’t finish. Every time any Real Madrid player made a pass in the final third, they immediately sprinted into space to get Athletic’s defensive line to shift around. Real Madrid had high volume with their crossing, but they also had high variance in their offense — and nearly scored from a cross on three separate occassions.
This trend of Real Madrid controlling games and not scoring continues during this mini slump of dropped points. Zidane tried to go for a more direct formula today with Vinicius and Rodrygo on the wings, and moving Isco to the bench — to no avail. We’ll break this down in more detail with more coverage tonight. Stay tuned for the post-game podcast.