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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid Femenino 1 - 0 Athletic Club

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Marta Cardona scores the winner.

Real Madrid Women v Athletic Club Women - Primera Division Femenina Photo by Oscar J. Barroso / Europa Press Sports via Getty Images

Real Madrid defeated Athletic Club 1-0 in a game that was as close as the scoreline suggested in terms of chances created, but felt more comfortable. Though Madrid didn’t manufacture oodles of shots, Athletic never got anything clear-cut despite attacking in numbers in the last 15 minutes of the game and Las Blancas looked assured on the ball in the prior 75. Below is my immediate reaction, with player ratings and a post-match pod soon to come.

  • David Aznar went with a midfield three after Real Madrid Femenino struggled to control proceedings in their last two games vs. Eibar and Granadilla. The trio of Aurélie Kaci, Maite Oroz, and Teresa Abelleira gave Madrid plenty of control and they were all comfortable receiving from the center-backs, though the especially secure Maite was the most prominent player in the pivot. As Athletic largely declined to press — instead, placing their two strikers and right midfielder on the DM and the two fullbacks — Madrid’s central defenders had plenty of time to look for options and often chose to hit a dropping CM. Athletic looked to be as tight as possible to any midfielder, but were vulnerable to quick turns in-behind if Madrid could manage it. As it happened, the home side mainly knocked lay-offs out wide, where they looked to play down the wing and release Jakobsson and Cardona against the last line.
  • Real scored through this sort of pattern in the 15th minute. Kaci received off a throw-in and pulled off a nice feint that got her clear of her marker, allowing her to execute a through ball down the left. Jakobsson was quick off the mark and left the slow-to-react Zurbano in the dust. The Swede’s low cross was put into the six-yard box and Cardona zipped over from the far side, dipping in front of left back Ainhoa Vicente at the last second to put her team up 1-0.
  • Madrid created very little before and after that, but they held the majority of possession and Athletic’s offense was largely unthreatening. Against the ball, Teresa stepped up alongside Asllani; Athletic progressed past the front two fairly easily but their attacks sputtered after they lofted balls down the flanks. Corredera and Kenti Robles were combative while Ivana Andrés was as alert as ever.
  • The 2nd half saw Athletic do a better job of holding onto possession, trying to circulate to the flanks on the ground. This made the game less comfortable for Madrid, though Athletic still struggled to create entries that got their two forwards the ball in dangerous box positions.
  • In the 57th minute, Asllani won a clever free kick on the counter-attack despite being severely outnumbered. Teresa’s delivery deflected to the right and into the path of Cardona, who put in a cross that Asllani headed just wide.
  • Sofia Jakobsson was a menace in any sort of situation where she could run into open field. Here pace was too much for Athletic both ways, as she had at least two sequences where she tracked back and stopped an Athletic counter in its tracks.
  • Aznar ended the game with Thaisa and Jessica Martínez on the pitch for Teresa and Asllani, respectively, presumably to put a more combative presence on the pitch alongside a more traditional outlet. Athletic applied lots of offensive pressure in this period, pumping balls into the box, aggressively counterpressing, and sending their fullbacks higher than their wide players (who received deep in the halfspace before looking to initiate play). They made Madrid uncomfortable but ultimately created nothing of note, allowing Las Blancas to pick up a narrow victory.