Unionistas de Salamanca lose 1 - 2 to Real Madrid (Morillo; Bale, Gongora (OG), Brahim). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, post-game quotes, and plenty more.
A night to remember for Unionistas. In front of a packed house at Pistas del Helmántico in Salamanca, this humble Segunda B side limited Real Madrid to two shots on target in the first half despite having just 30% possession, and even went out of their way to have more shots than Zidane’s men at the end of the half. Sure, they were down 0 - 1, but they weren’t expected to win or even get a sniff of a result. When 23-year-old Alvaro Romero, a journey man from Sevilla who, at the peak of his career, made a cameo off the bench for Extramadura in Segunda and never played higher than the third division otherwise, scored a stunning goal after a mazy run and top-shelf bullet.
From Real Madrid’s perspective, few will remember this game — and none will find the night as charming as Romero and his team did. Zidane’s men were in the lowest gear possible throughout this entire match. They scraped through with minimum exertion and got the job done.
These early-round games in Copa del Rey generally have a pre-season feel to it, so it’s hard to get into much tactical detail. Sam Sharpe and I will break it down further on tonight’s post-game podcast. In the meantime, here are some quick bullet points:
- Something seemed off with Gareth Bale. He lost almost every 50/50 ball in the first half, and looked nervous going into challenges. In the 12th minute, after losing his third straight duel and looking frail on the ball, he held his ankle and shrugged off the challenge with a limp. Maybe there were some physical limitations with him tonight. Even when he scored through a couple deflections, he didn’t display much emotion. Casemiro ran over and tried to get him to smile a little bit — which seemed to work.
- A rough game from Vinicius and Marcelo on the left side. Vinicius just couldn’t get going offensively at all. Even when he had space in transition to blitz Unionistas, he’d end up dribbling into a defender. Marcelo’s passing was not good. He had a couple shocking giveaways, one of which led to Romero’s goal.
- James was a mixed bag, but overall poor. He had the perfectly-placed assist to Bale, and had a couple nice vertical passes, but also had two clear-cut chances to make this game 0 - 2 and should’ve done better.
- Real Madrid’s transition-defending was oddly not good, at all. Unionistas had plenty of chances to equalize a second time with numbers in the box, but failed to capitalize.
- Casemiro was one of the few bright spots. He put James into a scoring position in the first half, had a couple good dribbling sequences, and he was the one who initially won the ball on Brahim Diaz’s goal. (Brahim’s goal was ultimately ruled as an own goal.)
- As soon as I saw Brahim Diaz coming on, I got excited. His hunger added some kind of urgency into the team that was much needed.
- This was a rare poor game on both ends of the field. Again, simple caveat: We probably won’t remember this game in the long run. Real Madrid never fully went into gear, or at least felt like they could coast it.