A slight deviation from Zidane’s previous tactical schemes until now. The Real Madrid manager rolled out a symmetrical 4-3-3, with Vinicius and Marco Asensio on the flanks, on either side of Karim Benzema. Luka Jovic shifted to the bench, Nacho took the right-back slot in absence of Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola.
It, worked, as far as the scoreline goes. The eye test was not easy, and Real Madrid are far from the level they’ll need to be as the season progresses.
At half-time, Zidane’s men led 1 - 0. They were not creating much offensive danger, but enough to create chances. Ferland Mendy combined well with Vinicius on the left flank, and Real Madrid used the wings and half-spaces to try to get in the box. Several crosses slotted in (two of which went over Vinicius’s head) cried for Jovic to be on the end of.
Defensively, Real kept a high line. In the first half, that generally wasn’t a problem. Levante’s chances came through rare Real Madrid giveaways or set-pieces (the most notable chance came from Nikola Vukčević towering over Nacho at the far post and hitting the cross-bar from a corner).
Real Madrid’s opening goal came through Vinicius, unmarked as the ball fell to him on a corner:
Vinicius Jr scored such a great goal! His second of the league season in 3 games. pic.twitter.com/4fCQ0i2zY0— Brasil Talents (@BrasilTalents) October 4, 2020
The second half, despite the score not budging, was vastly different from the first half.
For the first 10 or so minutes of the second frame, the game continued as it did in the first half. But in a weird series of events, something shifted: Real Madrid’s defense completely melted, and Levante grew into the game with waves (and waves) of attack. The coverage vanished, and the defensive compactness dissolved. Levante had any vertical option they wanted building from the back. Thibaut Courtois came up big on several occassions, and was left for dead fending off multiple Levante attacks almost single-handedly.
Things did not improve as the half wore on. Sergio Ramos did have a goal disallowed, and Vinicius missed two golden chances. But Real Madrid did not threaten Levante much outside of that. Zidane made two like-for-like subs: Rodrygo and Lucas Vazques for Asensio and Vinicius — hardly a game-altering change. Later in the half, Isco and Martin Odegaard entered for Fede Valverde and Luka Modric, with little time left to make an impact.
Karim Benzema scored on a breakaway on the final touch of the game to make it 2 - 0.
We’ll break this game down in much more detail in the coming hours. Stay tuned for tonight’s post-game podcast.