Real Madrid lose to Girona 1 - 2 (Casemiro; Stuani, Portu). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podast.
After Marco Asensio’s encouraging cameo in Amsterdam, where he constantly moved behind the lines, worked hard winning the ball high up the pitch, shot on sight (a team-high five in shots in just 18 minutes), and scored the winning goal; Solari rewarded the young Spanish winger by starting him against Girona in a noon kick-off at the Santiago Bernabeu.
While starting Asensio and Marcelo may have just been Solari’s way of rotating players in a difficult month — giving Vinicius Jr and Sergio Reguilon a breather — he got a lot of production from his left flank in the first half today. Everything offensively flowed through Asensio’s side, where he looked to continually make runs down the wing behind Ramalho — waiting for Marcelo to pick him out. Marcelo’s passes to Asensio were overhit a couple times, but the duo were dangerous on the left, and their movement, combined with Kroos, Casemiro, and Benzema all hedging over to the left side to provide outlets, made it difficult for Girona to defend that flank.
That opened up space for cross-field switches to Lucas Vazquez and Alvaro Odriozola — theoretically, anyway. Real Madrid’s passes to that side weren’t that prolific (some inaccurate), but had they been able to hit passes to that side consistently, they could’ve shifted Girona’s defensive line to pull them out of shape. Portu, who spent a lot of time on the left side, actually went toe-to-toe with Odriozola for pace both offensively and defensively, which helped Girona zip up that wing.
Real Madrid weren’t spectacular in the first half, but they were efficient in their press (bar three times were Girona broke through in their build-up, and twice where they had a chance on goal — mopped up by Courtois, Ramos and Varane). The passing improved as the half wore on, and Ceballos grew into the match after Real Madrid scored their goal through a Kroos diagonal cross and Casemiro header in traffic:
Casemiro has put Real Madrid in front for the second weekend in a row! That's a lovely ball in from Toni Kroos pic.twitter.com/Ok0hCs3Wg8— On The Continent (@otcpod) February 17, 2019
All of Real Madrid’s problems surfaced after half-time.
The intensity in the press dropped, the defensive transition was frail, and Solari’s men ceded possession without closing vertical gaps.
Girona sent their first alarm bell when Aleix Garcia’s rebound from a cross (Ramos and Varane couldn’t close Garcia in time, and had little help defensively) was missed point-blank. Then, on a similar sequence (cross to the far post from the right), Ramos was called for a handball in the box. Portu equalized from the spot:
| |— Eleven Sports (@ElevenSports_UK) February 17, 2019
Sergio Ramos is shown a yellow card for a handball inside the box...
Christian Stuani stepped up for Girona pic.twitter.com/crkMfIMXvW
Girona kept coming, and they even started pressing high up the pitch to unnerve Real Madrid’s build-up — causing Solari’s men to (again) struggle dealing with pressure coming out of the back.
Portu put Girona ahead in the 75th minute. Marcelo should’ve reacted quicker at the far post:
Girona have come from behind and now lead Real Madrid!— On The Continent (@otcpod) February 17, 2019
Sergio Ramos conceded a penalty, which Christian Stuani dispatched to bring Girona level. And now Portu has given them the lead! #RMAGIR pic.twitter.com/CbATZeYm4s
There was little from Real Madrid after that. They were more likely to concede a third than to score an equalizer, and apart from some dangerous dribbling and cut-in sequences from Vinicius, and the odd chance for Bale, Solari’s men just didn’t look great in the second half.
Just to rub some salt into the wounds, Sergio Ramos picked up a second yellow card for a dangerous play — a harsh call where he attempted a bicycle kick and fouled Stuani in the process.
The league deficit has now increased to nine points — not a great look, and not a happy morning for Real Madrid fans who woke up at the crack of dawn on the west coast.
We’ll break this down in the coming hours.