Santiago Solari chose not to rotate ahead of the three biggest matches of the season. It seems the Argentine’s preferred XI, does not include Gareth Bale as both Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius JR got the nod. Nacho stepped in for the suspended Sergio Ramos and Sergio Reguilon continues to start over Marcelo. A mundane first half, saw Madrid go into the break ahead of Levante, 1-0 via a Karim Benzema penalty. Madrid were poor and Levante were far the better side—producing four clear cut goal-scoring opportunities. Roger Marti was particularly impressive, his off the ball movement meant Nacho had a torrid night. The Levante attacker would ultimately get his goal, the equalizer, after beating Nacho to a near post low driven cross. A controversial second penalty, courtesy of VAR, would be Madrid’s savior. Gareth Bale stepped up and dispatched the goal, but wanted nothing to do with his teammates in the celebration. An overall underwhelming performances draws two positives: a win (albeit ugly and undeserved) and no injuries. Full player ratings below:
Thibaut Courtois—6.5: Had one save all evening as Levante only had two shots on target — one of which ended up in back of the net. Came off his line well and used his physical advantage to win multiple flighted balls.
Dani Carvajal—6: Luna and Morales worked hard down Levante’s left and were able to run in behind a disjointed Madrid backline on multiple occasions. Carvajal was decent defensively, but added little to the Madrid attack.
Raphael Varane—6.5: A team high 9 clearances and 6 aerial duels won, Varane was solid in the back, but without Ramos, responsibility fell on his shoulders to organize the backline which was stretched throughout the first half.
Nacho—3: A performance Nacho will want to forget about quickly. Roger Marti had his way with the former Castilla captain. On the equalizing goal, Nacho switched off and allowed Roger Marti to get that one step ahead of him to clinically divert the cross from Morales into the back of the net.
Sergio Reguilon—7: From a defensive perspective, Sergio Reguilon reads the game so well. He puts himself in the best positions to prevent dangerous opportunities for the opposition. He tucks inside at the right moments, knows when to press and when to give his attacker a few extra inches of space, and consistently thwarts counter-attacking opportunities. Had a goal-line save at the end of the match, which ultimately did not matter, as a foul was called on Courtois. In attack, has proven to be a good ball carrier and can draw fouls. Also contributed 2 key passes, the same as Luka Modric.
Casemiro—8: Another very good performance from the Brazilian, his numbers speak for themselves: 5 tackles (team high), 3 interceptions (team high), 2 aerial duels won, 1 clearance, 2 key passes, 91% PA from 53 passes, and 3 long balls (all 3 accurate). Drew the controversial penalty which won Madrid the match.
Luka Modric—6: There were moments of Modric’s quality sprinkled throughout the match, but overall was too quiet and failed to leave his mark.
Toni Kroos—6.5: Surprisingly substituted out at the hour mark for Fede Valverde (likely for rest), the German was excellent in possesion. Completed all of his passes in the first half, but failed to break down the Levante block. Still managed to finish the match with 3 key passes, the highest on the team with Karim Benzema.
Lucas Vazquez—5: A very average performance—another Madrid player who failed to leave any lasting impression on the match.
Vinicius JR—7.5: So very raw, but consistently performs as one of Madrid’s most dangerous attacking pieces. Creates opportunities out of nothing with his pace and dribbling skills. His final pass and final shot, still leave a lot to be desire but with the proper coaching and mentoring, those two items will come. His defensive pressure and work ethic continues to be a highlight.
Karim Benzema—7: His goal, via the penalty spot, and his 3 key passes lift his rating, but overall it was another subdued performance from the Frenchman. Compared to the form he was showing prior to the first leg in Amsterdam, this Karim is less involved and less productive. Hopefully conserving his energy for Wednesday.
Fede Valverde—7: The surprise first substitute from Solari after talking off Kroos near the hour mark. The Uruguayan was active and full of energy. He was tidy in possession, quick one or two touch passes and then immediately moving off the ball. Did not look out of place nor did the team drop off a level in midfield.
Gareth Bale—7: Came on, in Solari’s words, with “hunger and rage, eating up the field”. Worked hard without the ball and stepped up to take the game-winning penalty kick. All the headlines after the match will be about his celebration, or lack there of, with Bale visibly frustrated and flinging his teammates hands off of his back.
Marco Asensio—6: Came on in the 82nd minute for Vinicius and had little time to make an impact. Had one through ball to Gareth Bale which almost resulted in a late opportunity for Los Blancos.