Real Madrid 2 - 0 Granada (Casemiro, Benzema). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, post-game quotes, and plenty more analysis.
Real Madrid win their sixth straight game, continuing an impressive streak where they’ve conceded just two goals over that stretch, and the defense as a whole has started to approach the impenetrable level of the second half of last season, post-lockdown.
Tonight, that defense held good for the most part. But that it did doesn’t tell the whole story. Granada had their chances, even as early as 30 seconds into the game — but their chances came from Real Madrid inflicting pain on themselves. Giveaways were a problem, and in particular Raphael Varane looked nervy (again) with the ball at his feet. His distribution has been poor under pressure, and his shaky passing can even appear when there is no pressure around him.
(Real Madrid’s biggest struggles in slow build-up sequences came from crosses in the box, or marking on set-pieces, where they allowed free bodies in the area.)
Granada deserve credit for inducing some of those Real Madrid turnovers. Diego Martinez stuck Yan Eteki in front of his four-man backline, which provided his team with numbers defensively to track runners down the middle without sacrificing his team’s width. They pressed well.
But Real Madrid, who got good defensive contributions from everyone in midfield (plus Carvajal and Mendy, who were stellar as always defensively), were able to find space behind Granada with quick switches and great movement down the vertical channels from Karim Benzema and Fede Valverde. Toni Kroos almost always had an outlet available to him both out-wide, as well as in front of him. Rodrygo, who had a rare cameo on the left, was able to create three chances with his cut-ins.
Unfortunately, Rodrygo also left the pitch with a right-leg injury after an awkward landing, and was stretchered off. Asensio entered the game for him.
Asensio would turn the game on its head, not right away, but eventually, in dramatic fashion. In a wild sequence, he hit the post, meeting a cross with the back of his heel. The ball eventually fell to Asensio again after a rebound from a Kroos shot, and he cut it back to Fede Valverde in the box, whose shot was saved point blank. The ball fell to Benzema, who blasted it over the bar from a tight angle.
Asensio almost had one of the goals of the season pic.twitter.com/vfixWtAi3S— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) December 23, 2020
Moments later, Asensio would find himself in the left half-space, receiving a ball from Ferland Mendy. Asensio bounces off the defender, and whips in a cross for Casemiro, who towers over Vallejo:
Benzema made it 2 - 0 late.
There are a lot of interesting wrinkles to break down in this game, which we’ll do on tonight’s post-game podcast, which is live on Zoom with Euan McTear and myself. Link is here.