There was not much to get excited about in Sunday night’s win over Levante in Valencia.
At half-time, while Real Madrid led through a Karim Benzema penalty, the team looked lethargic and vertically loose — they weren’t compact, nor could they consistently find an open Modric to string things together. The defensive line wasn’t in sync, particularly defending set-pieces. In the 23rd minute, Levante hit the post after a flick from a corner to the weak-side; and in the 30th, they threatened again on a set-piece as Varane kept Levante onside.
Shortly after Benzema scored, Levante split Varane and Nacho with a through-ball, again, leaving Real Madrid loose defensively.
The most encouraging thing brewing in those first 45 minutes was Vinicius’s relentless defensive effort. He won the ball twice deep, and again on a press high up the pitch to create a dangerous chance. His passing was poor, as was the case was with Benzema and Casemiro — but those three at least did other things to make up for the sluggish distribution. Vinicius did really great two-way work and was dangerous with his dribbling (he also had a great chance on the break mid-way through the second half, which Aitor brilliantly saved); Benzema had three key passes and a goal; and Casemiro had a really great interception which led to a good counter-attacking sequence — along with a couple counter-pressing moments in the second half.
Things didn’t necessarily improve after half-time. Solari’s men pressed a little better, but Levante defended well, packed the flanks well to prevent Carvajal and Reguilon overloads, and continued to be dangerous offensively. They got their equalizer when Roger Marti beat Nacho to a cross to score a freak goal:
Real Madrid caught a break, through a phantom penalty decision, which Gareth Bale converted and did the most anti-Alpha-Bale celebration possible:
Out of jail?— DAZN CA (@DAZN_CA) February 24, 2019
Gareth Bale converts Real Madrid's second penalty of the game to restore their lead, but he doesn't look very happy about it
Watch #LevanteRealMadrid https://t.co/QlaIPtADzN pic.twitter.com/xdvgiipA1X
Solari’s men saw this out, which he’ll be happy about — and given that there are three massive games coming up after this, you’ll take an ugly win (something you wish Real Madrid could say about the Girona match, among many others).
We’ll break this down more in the coming hours.