Real Madrid barely got out of first gear, yet they put this game on cruise control and coasted past Real Zaragoza in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey.
That’s been the story of this young Copa campaign so far. While Zidane’s men have had moments where the opposition enjoy spells of attacks, Real Madrid can put in a relatively tame effort on both ends of the field, while kicking into a sense of urgency only when needed.
They didn’t need to exert themselves too much tonight, in what was an impressive performance on both ends of the field. The team scored early, and then again before half-time — with Toni Kroos creating both goals in the first half. On the first, Kroos put in a low-driven cross which Raphael Varane pounced on at the far post. On the second, Kroos’s sweeping counter-press dispossessed Shinji Kagawa (yes, that Shinji Kagawa); and then the German found Lucas Vazquez in the box.
Goooooool del Real Madrid, Raphael Varane hace el primero a los 6 minutos de iniciado el partido.— NBA y Fútbol en Español (@EnElSofaSports) January 29, 2020
Zaragoza 0 - Real Madrid 1
Copa del rey pic.twitter.com/jlLAyfLtv9
Goooooool del Real Madrid, Lucas Vázquez recibe dentro del área y manda el balón al fondo de la portería.— NBA y Fútbol en Español (@EnElSofaSports) January 29, 2020
Zaragoza 0 - Real Madrid 2
Copa del Reypic.twitter.com/41ZOOWccZ2
In the 32nd minute, Zaragoza created their first bit of danger. A through-ball past Carvajal on the right side finally got them in a good position, and Real Madrid loanee Alberto Soro put in a good cross. The momentum carried the home side for a few minutes. Their most notable chance came from Kagawa at the top of the box — but Areola (who was great throughout) tipped the shot over the bar.
By half-time, Real Madrid were in control. There was some wonky positioning (the lack of an anchor was clear, as James played in an advanced role, and Kroos was mostly pinned on the left side), but Zaragoza’s passing wasn’t good enough to punish Real. Zidane’s men pressed efficiently, and limited the home side’s build-up.
Apart from Kroos, the standout performer was Vinicius Jr. His defense tonight was great — both with pressing and tracking. The Brazilian had already won the ball five times in the first half, and his turns and dribbling on the ball gave Zaragoza’s defensive line all kinds of problems. Vinicius eventually got his goal in the second half, making it 3 - 0 after a pretty pass-and-move sequence with James Rodriguez:
VINICIUS GOAL REAL MADRID 3-0 FOLLOW FOR LIVE GOALS pic.twitter.com/FnMwzzbgUV— HD GOALS LIVE (@HDGoalsLive) January 29, 2020
Zaragoza had another brief spell in the second half, most notably when Luis Suarez came on and gave Real problems with his off-ball runs. But Suarez’s finishing wasn’t good when he got the ball in good areas, and Areola mopped up everything else. There are some semi-interesting tactical wrinkles in this game, and some individual performances (namely from James and Marcelo) that are worth discussing further, which we’ll do on tonight’s post-game podcast.