Real Madrid Femenino closed out the calendar year with a 1-0 win against Sporting Huelva. The game was not broadcast or streamed anywhere, so Madridistas were forced to follow the match on Twitter, living vicariously through journalists who attended the match. But Sporting Huelva recently posted the video of the match. Here are five takeaways from Real Madrid’s big win.
Ariana Arias deserves more minutes
The 17-year-old striker has set the youth ranks ablaze with her goal scoring ability and now she is getting frequent call ups to the first team. However, she has not gotten much match time this season and her minutes have mostly come in short spurts at the end of matches.
Arias got her first start in the absence of both Jessica Martínez and Kosovare Asllani and she didn’t look out of place. In the match against Sporting, Arias was isolated as every striker has been this season for Las Blancas. Most of her touches came with her back to goal. Initially, she struggled to hold up play because she was muscled off the ball by the center backs.
Arias quickly adjusted. She used her positioning and her dribbling ability to hold the ball up. Her decision-making under pressure was also promising. With her back to goal, she never forced the ball forward. Arias was calm and composed under pressure and linked well with her teammates.
Arias’ movement off the ball was dangerous. She was wily and tough to track on set-pieces and made clever runs into the penalty area. In the tenth minute, the striker made a run to the front post, losing her defender. Sofia Jakobsson found Arias with a lofted cross. Arias hit it first time but was unable to keep the shot from flying over the bar. It was the best chance of the match.
Obviously, we expect that chance to be finished off but it wasn’t as easy as it seemed. Arias showed her quality finishing ability against Espanyol and her youth rank stats are inarguable. Arias is an extremely promising young talent and needs to continue her development process. If she continues to get called up to the first team, she needs to be given minutes so she can mature and grow as a player. Arias has also shown enough in her recent performances to warrant more minutes and she has the ability to become an important contributor to this team.
Claudia Florentino is ready to start and she shouldn’t have been subbed off at halftime
I’ll preface this point by saying Babett Peter didn’t put a foot wrong in the second half and came up with a couple of big challenges. But there was no need to substitute Claudia Florentino at halftime. She was solid defensively throughout the first half. Florentino did really well to put her body between the ball and the attackers and cut out any danger coming her way.
Florentino continued to impress with the ball at her feet. Her distribution from the back was spot on. Claudia is calm and collected and has the quality and ability to pass around her own penalty box with a coolness that you don’t often see, especially in someone as young as her.
Overall, Florentino has been a revelation on both sides of the ball this season. She has made a few mistakes but that is to be expected. Florentino has also put in some top performances and was really good against Sporting.
Sofia Jakobsson is a different player when deployed on the right
Marta Cardona was on the right and Jakobsson was on the left to start the match. About midway through the first half, the players swapped flanks and Jakobsson came to life. She looked like a completely different player. The Swede took on players with a renewed sense of confidence and flew past multiple defenders with ease.
Jakobsson was moved to a more central position when Arias was substituted in the second half. The Swede continued to drift to the right and served as the only outlet for Real Madrid. She looked like the superstar Madridistas saw at CD Tacón last year.
Jakobsson also found the goal that separated the two teams. She started on the right and drifted centrally before launching a shot toward the top left corner. The effort took a deflection and found the back of the net.
Olga Carmona continues to improve in her ‘new position’
In the absence of Marta Corredera, coach David Aznar had no option but to slide Olga Carmona in at left back. We have seen this experiment a few times this season and each time Carmona seems to add a bit more to her game. Carmona, who is traditionally a winger, has provided creativity and security on the ball at left back. There have been questions about her defensive ability but she has improved rapidly in her new position.
Carmona was solid against the ball vs. Sporting. She was able to win her individual duels and prevent crosses from entering the area, something that she has struggled with in earlier matches. The winger-turned-left back still gets caught up field at times but she and the left center back (Florentino or Peter) have built a formidable connection and Carmona often has cover at the back as a result.
The Holiday break has come at the perfect time for Real Madrid Femenino
Las Blancas go into the winter break in second place. They have had an extremely promising first half of the season. But the squad needed the break. Against Sporting, the team really struggled. Sporting put them under pressure, which did not help, but some of the usual starters looked off their game.
Kaci and Teresa struggled in possession in this match. Maite Oroz also struggled but not to the extent of the others. The same can be said for Kenti Robles and, at times, Marta Cardona. Some of their touches were lackadaisical and their passes were a little too soft or a bit off the mark. It looked like a lot of these players who have been fixtures in the team needed rest — something that Aznar did not really have the option to provide.
We know all of these players are top class and it seems as though this break comes at the perfect time. Real Madrid sits in the second spot in Primera Iberdrola and just as our top players are tiring, they get a much-needed break.