Deportivo Alavés 1-4 Real Madrid AET (Casemiro, Benzema x2, Hazard). An important win. Here is the quick reaction. Up next: Player ratings, the post-game podcast and extra analysis.
Before the game I prepared myself in anticipation for a potential match filled with genuine frustration after the horror week at the club. Events couldn’t have ended up playing out any differently. The line-up was strong with few surprises, although the bench was thinner than usual. This maybe something that Madridistas will need to get used to. Zidane was not present after unfortatenly testing positive for COVID-19, however a bald figure still took charge after assistant David Bettoni stepped up in his place. Alavés attempted to press, but the lack of intensity meant that Real Madrid never really had to leave first gear to progress up the pitch and create chances.
Chances from Benzema, hitting the post and Kroos hitting the keeper kept Alavés in the game. But the resulting corner from those efforts led to Casemiro scoring the easiest header of his career. He was left unchecked and a soft header drifted into the corner. Not long later Benzema doubled the score with a fabulous finish, curling a strike beyond the keeper. Hazard made it three before the half was done, controlling a superb Kroos pass before caressing the ball around the keeper. Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos were supreme in this half - spraying passes like there was no tomorrow, whilst demonstrating every technique in the book along the way. There could not have been a better response from Militão after a poor midweek showing. Vázquez and Asensio were the only players I felt didn’t involve themselves enough in possession.
Alaves playing a much higher line than I thought. Shape has been good defensively at times, but anytime they press or hedge higher, Kroos and Modric have ripped them apart.— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) January 23, 2021
Alavés made three changes and actually piled on the pressure for the first few minutes. Courtois was equal to a thunderous effort to edge Madrid through the storm. The home side continued to build though, and for the seemingly one millionth time - Castilla graduate Joselu scored a goal against Madrid. This time from a strong header to make it 3-1. Any Alavés hopes of a comeback were erased when Modrić picked out Benzema close to the touchline, before the Frenchman drifted inside and unleashed a low shot into the net for four. This effectively killed the game, and allowed Madrid to coast towards the final whistle stress free. What this excellent result might change over the coming games is yet to be seen - but it should be acknowledged that Zidane remained heavily involved in the game, selecting the team and providing information to the players via Bettoni. This will be discussed further in the post game podcast, which will be released after the player ratings for the game has been dropped.