Real Madrid beat Arsenal in the ICC on penalties. Aubameyeng and Lacazette put Arsenal up 2 - 0 before Bale and Asensio scored a goal each in the second half to take the game into penalties. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.
In what can only be labelled as a completely hysterical game that you’d have trouble scripting, Real Madrid squeak past Arsenal with a narrow victory after going 2-0 down in the first half.
The first half (unlike the second) wasn’t pretty, but it was eventful. Apart from a couple chances early on where Real Madrid broke through Arsenal’s defense in the first two minutes of the game, they struggled getting out of Arsenal’s press, and had no real means of ball progression out of the back. Within the first 10 minutes, Real Madrid made three mistakes: 1) Nacho let an attacker slip behind in the 5th before lashing out his leg and committing a foul; Dani Carvajal gave the ball away twice within the space of a few seconds in the 7th minutes as Real Madrid were playing out of the back; and 3) Sergio Ramos gave the ball away deep, before Nacho committed a handball in the box and getting sent off. All three led to dangerous chances for Arsenal — the third of which led to the opening goal:
Lacazette makes it 1-0 to Arsenal from the penalty spot— ️1️⃣ (@P1AFC) July 23, 2019
14 minutes later, Arsenal doubled their lead through a nice sequence, catching Real’s high line napping:
Lacazette sets up Aubameyang with a beautiful back-heel flick pic.twitter.com/bTjpIvv40G— ESPN (@espn) July 23, 2019
(It should be noted that in response to going down a man, Zidane brought off Luka Jovic for Raphael Varane. It was harsh on Jovic, to be sure — not necessarily because it was the wrong call, but because Jovic only got 16 minutes of playing time.)
Real Madrid continued to struggle pulling passes together. Benzema’s passing in transition was off (as it’s been for months now). Hazard’s dribbling in tight spaces was impressive, but there were no real spaces for him to attack with his teammates so distant from him. There were times were Kroos or Modric would look up and see nothing.
A big twist in this match was in the 40th minute, when Sokratis Papastathopoulos received a second yellow for a challenge on Luka Modric. Real Madrid breathed a bit from that moment on. In the last few minutes of the second half, they were able to keep purposeful possession and looked more press-resistant.
The game at half-time flipped completely on its head.
Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, and Isco all came on for Karim Benzema, Lucas Vazquez, and Eden Hazard. Bale spearheaded the attack, but also roamed on the flanks to receive passes out wide. The headline writes itself:
Real Madrid were all over Arsenal at that point. Asensio, who was playing with a swag after he came in — hitting the post from distance and looking to break lines as soon as he got the ball — equalized for Real in the 59th minute:
In a blink of an eye, Marco Asensio ties it for Real Madrid! pic.twitter.com/c9On6LDKGo— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 24, 2019
We’ll save most of the post-game talk for tonight’s podcast (which will no doubt include plenty of banter about some of the commentary tonight), but it should be noted that Asensio and Bale looked really good. Isco and Marcelo looked sharp too. Marcelo even had some really important defensive interventions when Arsenal were slinging plenty of counters in the second half.
One thing that really dampened the game was a knee injury to Marco Asensio which forced him to be stretchered off. Asensio’s reaction was a bit haunting, and you can only hope the diagnosis shows that he has minimal damage.