Real Madrid 2 - 0 Borussia Monchengladbach (Benzema x 2). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, post-game quotes, and plenty more analysis.
Maybe there was never a real doubt. When the chips are on the line, Zinedine Zidane, as a manager, has been knocked out of the Champions League just once out of four tries. And beyond him, the last two times Real were KO’d in this competition they didn’t have Sergio Ramos in their team. Tonight, the captain was back, and his defensive presence and ability on the ball — and maybe more important than all, his presence, his cojones — was felt in the team.
You could sense the intensity upon kick-off, where the team’s press was charged by Luka Modric, who was more hyperactive for the entirety of the 90 minutes. In peak-Modric fashion, he glued the team’s shape together, was important defending in transition, and was a release-valve for the team’s build-up. He evaded challenges, created space for Rodrygo on the right flank and was unlucky not to score a goal that was disallowed.
Real Madrid’s two goals in the first half came from two brilliant crosses from both Lucas Vazquez and Rodrygo on the right, expertly connected with by Karim Benzema’s head:
Real Madrid got really good contributions tonight from pretty well everyone on the field. Kroos dropped deep all night to distribute beautifully. Rodrygo was purposeful with the ball on the wing. Benzema’s movement clicked all the puzzle pieces into place. Vinicius, even though still lacking sharpness and efficiency in the box, worked really hard to defend in transition — particularly on two sequences where Casemiro was caught out of position.
Outside of the two goals, Modric, Benzema, and Vazquez all hit the post.
Borussia Monchengladbach, a team that did so well in Germany to limit Real Madrid’s offensive chances, struggled to contain the flanks tonight, and Real Madrid’s transition defense was much improved in dealing with any counters the German’s had.
We’ll break this down in much more detail on tonight’s podcast. Join us live on Zoom, at 6:15pm EST.