Borussia Mönchengladbach 2 - 1 Real Madrid (Thuram x2; Benzema). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, post-game quotes, some tactical analysis, and plenty more.
Real Madrid have come down from the post-Clasico high, returning to earth against a team that actually defended them well. Barcelona on the weekend allowed Real Madrid space in transition. Borussia Mönchengladbach were more compact. And though they did have several high-pressing sequences in the first half, did not venture into the final-third much. Their pragmatic approach saw them outshot 11-1 in the first frame as they took a 1 - 0 lead into the half. That one goal was crafted beautifully; while none of Real Madrid’s 11 chances were clear cut.
On Mönchengladbach’s opening goal, they pounced on a poor clearance from Varane. Plea swung the ball in perfectly onto Thuram’s feet:
From a tactical perspective, Real Madrid’s attacking sequences were better in the first half than they were against Cadiz and Shakhtar. Mönchengladbach put pressure on Real Madrid’s ball-carriers coming out of the back, and given Zinedine Zidane instructed his players to dribble and carve out openings (this was more apparent than in previous games where the team struggled against organized defensive lines), the team was able to create transition opportunities. Marco Asensio, Fede Valverde, and Ferland Mendy in particular had important dribbling sequences to set the team free. The dribbling also had its perils, causing the team to lose possession in key areas from over-dribbling in midfield, but they recovered well enough to stop any Mönchengladbach breaks.
Vinicius Jr, who was taken off for Eden Hazard later in the second half, had a rough and unproductive outing. His movement to show as an outlet was conducive to the build-up, but his touches on the ball were sluggish. He couldn’t get past his defender, and missed a clear-cut chance to start the second half.
Zidane opted not to make any subs at half-time. Real Madrid forced a corner with their pressure within the first 45 seconds of the second frame, and Asensio hit the cross bar from that set-piece. Moments later a piercing Fede run on the right found Vinicius for a cut-back, which he, um, for lack of better words — absolutely botched.
In the 58th minute, Mönchengladbach doubled their lead. Ferland Mendy stepped up to keep the offensive line onside, and, the rest of Real Madrid’s defenders kept two players open, the final one being Marcus Thuram from point-blank range:
Moments later, Plea got in behind Varane for a break, which Thibaut Courtois saved to prevent a 3 - 0 deficit.
In the 87th minute, Karim Benzema pulled one back, converting a Casemiro cut-back as the Brazilian kept the ball in play with a header. In the 93rd minute, Casemiro equalized.
(That last paragraph, to be sure, hit me out of nowhere before I hit publish, so forgive me for the quick analysis on Real Madrid’s goals).
Post-game podcast is free tonight. Stay tuned.