Job done, with a heavily rotated squad, in a potential banana-peel-game sandwiched between two colossal La Liga ties.
The game in Sevilla was exhausting, and the game in the Wanda on Saturday presumably will be too. We knew Zidane was going to go into this game without a few of his stars and mainstays, and given that Osasuna are a small team that have already outplayed Barcelona while going undefeated until now, this was a tricky game.
But one major key helped: Zidane’s defensive shape, for the second consecutive game, was really good. Odriozola and Nacho, the team’s full-backs tonight, didn’t venture forward much — and when they did, the team had good numbers in transition in what was a pragmatic scheme that focused on finding ball-carriers — namely Vinicius and Vazquez — on the flanks. Osasuna had one noteworthy break in the first half, resulting from Nacho gambling on the left and leaving himself exposed, which the team recovered from.
The main story of the first half was Vinicius Jr, who, every time he touched the ball, was whistled for meandering with it and trying to dribble past players which he couldn’t do often. It got to a boiling point in the 33rd minute, where, by my notes, he gave the ball away for a fourth time with a superfluous dribble and pass, and the crowd at that point where whistling him before he even got the ball.
What happened next was brilliant, and much needed:
Shades of his goal against Atletico Madrid B last season.
Vinicius went on to create a few more chances as he swapped flanks with Vazquez, and gave the ball away a couple times too — but the crowd were much more supportive from that moment on, and when he was taken off for Rodrygo in the second half, received a huge standing ovation. Tough love.
Speaking of Rodrygo, here was his first touch:
Magical first touch and Rodrygo scores a minute after his official La Liga debut. Real Madrid 2-0 Osasuna pic.twitter.com/EJyF3jZKC0— Lukas Langvinis (@LLangvinis) September 25, 2019
Scattered things from my notebook
- Vinicius scoring in the first half took pressure off the team. Far too often we’ve seen the Bernabeu get restless and the players feeling the pressure when the score lingers at 0-0 into the second half. Vinny’s goal allowed the team to continue playing solid defensively without sacrificing their shape. The goal also came in this context: The team wasn’t generating many chances, so a moment of individual brilliance coming through at that point was huge.
- Militao looked uncomfortable with his distribution. He had several giveaways, and was hesitant making non-obvious passes. We have noted that his passing needs some work in our School of Real Madrid scouting report earlier in the summer. Defensively though? No questions. He was great. Covered anytime Odriozola got beat on the right, and had huge interventions throughout.
- Luka Jovic had three great chances. Two of them he missed point blank, and the third he converted — which VAR unfortunately ruled out. We only saw one replay in the stadium, and it looked harsh — but it seems like he was off, by a hair (literally).
- Some very classic Odriozola sequences tonight — one run in the first half where he blazes the entirety of the right flank with multiple defenders hounding him before putting a dangerous cross in; and one tremendous defensive recovery in the second half.
- Valverde might not have had his best night, but his energy was great. He helped the midfield set the tone in the first half with his pressing and quick thinking in tight spaces on the right, and received a massive roar from the crowd in the second half for running more in 15 seconds than I have since last summer.
Post-game podcast coming tonight from the stadium, for Patrons over at Patreon.com/ManagingMadrid