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Immediate Reaction: Athletic Club 0 - 1 Real Madrid

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Real Madrid click into gear in the second half, and then the inevitable: Sergio Ramos scores the winning goal

Athletic Club v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Athletic Club lose to Real Madrid 0 - 1 (Sergio Ramos). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game quotes, post-game podcast, C-Trick’s tactical column, and plenty more.


*Every match report concludes with a Sergio Ramos winning goal.*

It hit 28 degrees today in an early kick off at San Mames between Athletic Club and Real Madrid. That early kick-off, coupled with the heat, could probably explain some of the sluggishness we saw on the pitch in the first half.

That sluggishness didn’t necessarily correlate with the entertainment value of the game — one with plenty of tactical wrinkles to dissect, and enough holes to allow certain individuals to rise to the occasion. There was no greater example of this than Real Madrid’s biggest defensive vulnerability in the first half: Iñaki Williams making dangerous runs into the half space between Sergio Ramos and Marcelo. Marcelo spent most of his positioning in Athletic’s half, and Ramos was uncharacteristically sloppy tracking Iñaki, letting him slip through behind him. In this game, Eder Militao was masterful in coming over to the left side to help cover. (There was a lot more to this plot line than I suggested, which we’ll break down on today’s podcast.)

Offensively, the biggest barrier was creating chances, more specifically: having a diverse-enough repertoire in attack to get Athletic out of their comfort zone. With Asensio on the left and Rodrygo on the right, there was no interchangeability between them. Rodrygo was sometimes deeper than Carvajal, and had difficult getting involved in the first frame. Most of Real Madrid’s attack was funnelled through the left side where Marcelo and Asensio were. Asensio was playing with a bounce, playing dangerous diagonal balls into the box. The combo of Marcelo and Asensio together was less efficient, as the passes between them weren’t in sync. Athletic planned for the obvious: Being in the right spots to outnumber Benzema in the box and clear danger.

In the second half, things budged. Rodrygo took on a more active role on offense. He took players on at a good clip, and had dangerous line-breaking sequences combining with Carvajal and Benzema — dribbling into the box, playing 1-2s, and diagonal passes to Real Madrid attackers in the box.

There was more urgency as the second half wore on, as the realization of a draw settling started to permeate the collective nervous system of the team. Marcelo kept chipping away on the left side, and one sprint to get to the ball before Dani Garcia in the box earned him a deserved penalty.

Here’s the scheduled part of the article, where Sergio Ramos scores the winning penalty after 70 minutes:

With that, Ramos scored his 22nd consecutive penalty, and Real Madrid inched one step closer to an overdue league title. Stay tuned for tonight’s podcast.