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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 3 - 0 Alaves

Real Madrid CF v Deportivo Alaves - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Real Madrid beat Alaves 3 - 0 (Benzema, Vinicius Jr, Mariano). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.

Following a string of really good performances from Real Madrid, and the much anticipated front trio of Bale, Benzema, and Vinicius Jr; Solari’s men went up against an Alaves team which Real lost to earlier this season.

There was an expectation that Real would continue their hot form.

It wasn’t great for large stretches, to be sure. As Solari displaced Toni Kroos, Lucas Vazquez, Carvajal, and Varane for rest; he also kept Marcelo on the bench for tactical reasons. The Bale, Vinicius, Benzema trident wasn’t as incisive as fans hoped it’d be, and Alaves — as they did earlier this season against Real Madrid — packed the flanks and made life difficult for Alvaro Odriozola (who had his worst game of the season against Alaves back in September).

Part of the reason the attack wasn’t as efficient tonight — outside of a terrific performance from Alaves, who deserve credit for their league position and efficiency with the ball with limited time on it — was Bale’s passivity. At half time, only Courtois had less touches than him, which is not uncommon, as Bale is not prolific with his touches in general — but for context, Vinicius had nearly double that amount on the opposite flank in the same time, linked up well with Reguilon, and constantly looked to break the defensive line. Bale just wasn’t involved as much, nor was he combining with Odriozola who Real Madrid went to a lot.

Ceballos and Modric were the key cogs in possession, but Odriozola got a lot of the ball on the right — eventually scoring a disallowed goal and slinging an assist late. He had difficulty finding space, though his speed got him into good positions. Alaves were very good in terms of getting numbers where Real Madrid switched the ball to, and Odriozola, though forcing a few corners, was also closed down quite a bit, and Jony gave him a hard time defensively on the other end.

Real Madrid’s left side was then, without too much surprise (although Alaves generally did well denying Vincius and Reguilon space on the left bar a few occassions), the architect of the first goal:

In what was Solari’s way of getting more out of Bale, he switched Vincius and Bale on the flanks to start the second half. That got Bale involved a little more. In the 49th minute, the Welshman cracked his first shot at Pacheco, after receiving the ball in the box from Luka Modric. But it wasn’t Bale’s best night, and when Marco Asensio came in for him, Vinicius went back to the left while Marco went to the right.

Real Madrid’s second goal involved both flanks:

Vinicius was great tonight. He started that goal and finished it. There were moments in the first half where he acted as a ball-carrier and went through a tight Alaves scheme. Maybe he wasn’t other-worldly, but against a stubborn Abelardo side, he took what the defense gave him, always looked vertical, and even when he lost the ball he would immediately go into recovery mode.

This was probably the end of a mini Real Madrid honeymoon, in some ways. The energy and high-octane pressing waned a little bit, and wasn’t sustained over 90 minutes. But given that both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid dropped points this weekend, and Real Madrid in recent history don’t always capitalize on opportunities like this, it was great getting three points, and bonus — a Mariano goal:

If Real Madrid can get him going, they’ll be able to increase their offensive variance and presence on crosses.

We’ll break this down further in the coming hours.

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