Real Madrid 1 - 2 Alaves (Casemiro; Perez, Joselu). Here’s our quick reaction at the final whistle. Still to come: Player ratings, Post-game podcast, post-game quotes, and plenty more analysis.
Is this what a Champions League hangover looks like? It must — though, somehow, we should already be clear on what it looks like, it happens so often.
We know why those big European nights are hard to follow up, or why games against Barcelona and Inter can look so easy yet games against Cadiz, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Alaves are so laborious. For one, teams like Alaves take less risks. They’re compact, and pick and choose their spots on the counter. With Alaves, there were more details today: Their transition defense was quick and they suffocated the flanks. For a team like Real Madrid, whose entire offense today was to get the ball out wide and cross to Mariano, that’s going to limit clear-cut opportunities. Alaves plugged the left flank in particular, leaving most of the onus on Lucas Vazquez to hit in crosses from the right (and to be clear, he did it well, and was also solid defensively too.)
To make things more difficult, Eden Hazard, the only one breaking lines centrally, limped off injured (there are reports on both a muscle and ankle injury, and we’ll provide the most update / accurate report as soon as we can). Hazard’s injury gave Alaves one less offensive wrinkle to deal with. Pablo Machin’s men also took advantage of two key moments: Hazard was denied a penalty, which seemed clear based on the replays, and Nacho handled the ball in the box.
That gave Alaves a penalty and a goal, and allowed them to double-down on their defensive scheme, as Lucas Perez remained the team’s outlet against Real Madrid’s increasingly high line. Raphael Varane, as he often is, was single-handedly defending in transition throughout the second half, and both he and Nacho were spread thin.
In the second half, Real Madrid’s margin of error decreased after a Thibaut Courtois mistake:
Courtois with a howler!— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) November 28, 2020
Joselu takes full advantage to double Alaves' lead over Real Madrid ⚪ pic.twitter.com/GzG11TMwRt
(To be clear, Courtois also had several big saves throughout this game facing Alaves counters.)
Real Madrid couldn’t turn their fate around at that point, no matter how much Mariano tried to get open. The striker’s headers either were driven right at Pacheco, or, in one case, brilliantly cleared off the line. Real Madrid needed more from Marco Asensio, and they didn’t get it. When Vinicius came on for the Spaniard in the second half, Real Madrid got effort and involvement, but no efficiency, as the Brazilian could not complete his dribbles.
Real Madrid pulled one back late through a scramble in the penalty area, and Isco nearly equalized off the bench with a shot that hit the bar.
We’ll break this down in a lot more detail on tonight’s post-game podcast. Check your rss feeds tonight.