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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 2 - 0 Alaves

One step closer to number 34.

Real Madrid CF v Deportivo Alaves - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Real Madrid beat Alaves 2 - 0 (Benzema, Asensio). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, C-Trick’s tactical column, post-game quotes, and so much more.

A makeshift backline featuring Lucas Vazquez as right-back was tested as early as the third minute tonight, as Alaves winger Edgar put a cross in past Vazquez and into Lucas Perez who towered over Ferland Mendy for a header. Neither Varane nor Militao were in position to put a body on Perez — but Varane cleared a rebound off the line to prevent an early deficit.

As Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal watched from the stands, things gradually improved. Alaves packed the flanks. They made it difficult for Vazquez and Militao to build from the back on the right side (although runs from Modric and Asensio on that flank helped open things up a bit); but on the opposite flank, Real Madrid found success. Alavez plugged both flanks in truth, and anytime Rodrygo touched the ball on the left, he was swarmed by multiple Alaves players.

But Rodrygo’s incisive dribbling, along with Mendy’s runs on the over (and under) lap unlocked everything Real Madrid needed on the break. In this week’s column, I wrote about Rodrygo’s transformation in the second half against Athletic, from a casual crossing passenger, to someone in the drivers seat — instigating offense from nothing through pass and move sequences in the half space. Zidane deployed Rodrygo on the left tonight, and Rodyrgo outperformed even his second-half self against Athletic. He was, unstoppable. At half-time he had five completed dribbles, found space when it didn’t exist, and was the chief architect of Real Madrid’s second goal. He continued to go at Alaves’s defense and mesh well with Benzema, Kroos, and Mendy.

On the right, Asensio was less active. He had just 12 touches at half-time, but was active in cross-field switches and providing an outlet on the right side. He was open for switches, but he rarely got the ball. When he did, he had space to cut in and shoot. In the second half he started to roam more and get more involved.

Bullet points

  • After a great performance vs Athletic, Militao was a mixed bag tonight. He made two mistakes, but recovered on both plays. He continues to be unnerved when pressed.
  • This was one of Lucas Vazquez’s most disappointing games of the season. He hasn’t truly looked comfortable at right-back in the past, but the touches that went wayward for him tonight weren’t related to his position. He did not get tested much, apart from the odd Edgar or Oliver Burke run.
  • This was a solid performance from the Modric - Kroos dyad. Modric was an escape valve on several pressing sequences, and connected dots in and around the box for his teammates. His touches were slick. Kroos was heavily involved in the possession funnelled through the left. He dropped deep in between center-backs at times, but was available for the cut-back in the left half-space when Rodrygo needed him as an outlet.
  • In the 82nd minute, Ray Hudson made a big deal about Real Madrid bringing on Eden Hazard and Isco off the bench. He had a point, which I agreed with. No one can quite “exploit” the five-sub rule like Real Madrid can.
  • Real Madrid’s second goal looked offside in live time, but it was shocking how onside Benzema actually was. Maybe this is an obvious or minor thing, but this new(ish) rule of keeping the flag down until the play is over is great. How many times in past years have we seen the flag go up in a situation when Benzema gets the ball on the break?
  • Loved Mendy tonight on both sides of the field.

Stay tuned for tonight’s post-game podcast.

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