With both Maite Oroz and Thaisa missing from the lineup, David Aznar’s hand was forced into playing the 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 he has been trying to move away from of late. Real Madrid Femenino got the job done despite the absences, though the game was much closer than the scoreline suggests. Below are my immediate observations. Player ratings and post-match podcast to follow.
- Both Real Madrid and Real Betis pressed from their 4-4-2 defensive shapes. It should’ve been easy for the former to just go player-to-player, but Real Betis inexplicably had a free option when one of their CM’s dropped. Consequently, Betis began to play the ball around a lot more cleanly after the first 10 minutes or so. This gave the home side confidence and LCB Dorine Chuigoué began to dribble forward to play vertical passes, allowing Ángela Sosa to exploit the space between the lines alongside her wide teammates.
- Madrid didn’t have as much joy on the ball. Betis committed player-to-player across the pitch and Teresa and Kaci found themselves with little time to make a decision or play a pass. Las Blancas responded by going long often, leading to a number of offside decisions, lots of possession losses, and an overall lack of control.
- In the 31st minute, Betis made a dangerous box entry after firing a pass into the channel between Kenti and Ivana. It would be their best moment of the half, as Madrid won the ball high up the pitch on three different sequences to completely turn the tide of the contest (notwithstanding Betis’ good-looking build-up, they never looked completely secure distributing from the back). Kaci scored a screamer from distance on the first, Cardona got free 1v1 with the keeper on the second, and Asllani received against a defender in isolation before firing into the corner on the third. The goals felt like they came out of nothing and Betis will feel hard done by, but efficiency trumps all.
- The second half continued much like the first; Betis pressing, largely suffocating Madrid’s build-up, putting together some nice patterns, but not creating an immense amount. In the 54th minute, Ángela Sosa finally got a real opportunity but Misa was on hand to make the save.
- Sosa got another chance in the 59th minute, when Betis won the ball high up the pitch, but fired straight into Misa’s hands. The loose pass came from Claudia Florentino, who had just been subbed on for Ivana Andrés (Olga Carmona would come on for Kenti Robles a few moments later).
- Betis pushed hard to end the game and looked to attack Carmona down the left. They probably should’ve scored in the final minutes but Misa held firm.
- Marta Cardona was the best player on the pitch. Her movements to receive inside, close control, and dribbling ability were the only reason Madrid managed to threaten in regular possession and there’s a strong argument that she’s been our best player so far this season.
- Without the “natural” free player provided by the 4-3-3, it seems that Madrid are destined to struggle against any sort of high pressure. They got by — just like they did against Eibar — but results like the ones against Granadilla are a distinct possibility if we can’t get better and more composed in build-up.