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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 2 - 3 Shakhtar Donetsk

Real Madrid’s dig a huge hole in a horrendous first-half display, and deservedly lose

Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk - UEFA Champions League Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Real Madrid 2 - 3 Shakhtar Donetsk (Modric, Vinicius; Tete, Varane (OG), Solomon). Here’s our quick reaction right at the final whistle. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game quotes, post-game podcast, and plenty more analysis.

At half-time, Shakhtar Donetsk — severely depleted and missing several regular starters — were up 0 - 3 at Estadio Alfredo di Stefano. The scoreline was not flattering for the visitors in any way. They earned it, progressed the ball calmly out of the back, and merited the result. To prevent further bleeding, Thibaut Courtois came up big to stop a breakaway in the first frame after Eder Militao stepped up wildly out of position after a failed press from Zinedine Zidane’s men.

Militao’s performance will be magnified. It wasn’t just that sequence he was out of position on, but on several others, including Shakhtar’s third goal. The cohesion between him and Raphael Varane was non-existent. The coverage from Marcelo and Mendy on the flanks wasn’t there either. Not long before Shakhtar’s first goal, Mendy was in a central attacking midfield role while Asensio was the team’s right-back. On the goal itself, Militao ended up over on the right hand side, and the ball ended up at Tete’s feet on the left.

On Shakhtar’s second goal, Varane was late to react on the rebound, then directed the ball into his own net.

And throughout the first 45 minutes, the theme was constant: The press was disjointed, and the defensive line a volcano in constant eruption — defensive pieces flying everywhere. Offensively, there were no clear solutions (beyond crosses) to breaking down Shakhtar’s organized low-block. Luka Jovic, starting as the team’s target man in the box, got on the end of a beautiful Marcelo cross, but mistimed his jump, and the ball hit his shoulder instead of his head.

Down three goals at half-time, Zidane brought on Karim Benzema for Rodrygo Goes. Within two minutes, Shakhtar got a dangerous counter, and throughout the second half, they threatened constantly in transition, and missed two *glorious* chances. Courtois came up big again.

Luka Modric started the comeback effort with his signature shoulder drop and near post curler:

Offensively, the team’s urgency dialled up, and the movement and passing became more direct. Vincius was the flag-bearer of urgency, taking it upon himself to be the only one willing to dribble through a crowd and make something happen. On his first touch upon entering the game for Jovic, he picked the pocket of a Shakhtar player, and ended up scoring:

But Real Madrid’s comeback fell short, and Shakhtar leave Madrid with a deserved victory. The damage was done in the first half, in what was a horrendous display from Zidane’s men. Frankly, a full comeback would’n’t have eclipsed the team’s lingering issues, and only would’ve been a frail band-aid on a gushing wound.

We’ll break this down in more detail tonight.

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