With two huge figures in Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema missing, for the second consecutive game, Zinedine Zidane rolled out the same exact line-up. Tonight at the San Siro, the team found success.
Maybe that was down to rhythm, continuity, and improved match fitness, and maybe some of it was down to how poor Inter were — how lax their defensive shape was, how little pressure they put on Real Madrid’s ball-carriers.
Toni Kroos would drop deep in between the center-backs, while Martin Odegaard just ahead of him, was always in between the lines to help progress the ball. Eden Hazard, on paper starting on the left, had a fluid role and relentless off-ball motor which kept the offense moving. Hazard had six completed dribbles in the first half, and he evaded pressure when it arrived.
More fluidity from Zidane’s men arrived, and Inter failed to punish it the other way. Nacho took on the mantle from Sergio Ramos, with step-up interventions and sprints into the box. He popped up in the left half-space early, to earn Real Madrid a penalty in the seventh minute which Hazard converted:
Eden Hazard puts Real Madrid 1-0 up, his second goal of the season.— LDN (@LDNFootbalI) November 25, 2020
Hopefully getting back to his best now he’s fully fit pic.twitter.com/kZQDweYFhO
Offensively, Inter offered little. Achraf, again, struggled going up against the Ferland Mendy wall. Romelu Lukaku, in his much anticipated return against Real Madrid, was shut down by Raphael Varane and Nacho, who both had brilliant individual defensive sequences against him. Mendy also covered well. (Mendy, in general, was a mixed bag tonight, and struggled offensively and under pressure, but did have important moments.)
Arturo Vidal had a nightmare, which certainly affected the game. Here’s a quick rundown, followed by his red card sequence:
Watched the reply again, his reaction to the first yellow is wild. Pure Russian roulette. "Let me escalate this situation to see how much I can get away with"— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) November 25, 2020
Arturo Vidal has completely lost it here!— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 25, 2020
A double yellow card for getting right up in Anthony Taylor's face
Inter have a mountain to climb now... pic.twitter.com/ngz4NXlNds
A key moment in the second half was when Zidane brought in Casemiro and Rodrygo for Odegaard and Mariano in the 58th minute. Seconds later, Rodrygo, with his first touch, does it to Inter again:
That was great movement from Lucas Vazquez, who crossed it into the Brazilian winger after receiving a pass from Kroos.
This was a fun, bizarre, and important victory. Tonight’s podcast is live on Zoom at 7pm Eastern for Patrons. Make sure to join. We’ll break this down in greater detail in the coming hours.