Real Madrid Femenino started off 2021 with another Madrid derby — this time against Madrid CFF, a club started by Madridistas with the hope that it might one day become Real Madrid Femenino. Below are my immediate thoughts. Player ratings and post-match pod to follow.
- Real Madrid started off strong and didn’t let up for the entire half. The ball progression was secure and decisive and I could scarcely believe what I was watching considering this team’s build-up struggles in the first half of the season. The left side looked particularly on their game to start off; Maite Oroz drifted over to connect the puzzle pieces, Olga Carmona pulled off daring progressive passes, Kosovare Asllani made timely runs into the channels and looked to be a threat between the lines, and Sofia Jakobsson darted in-behind.
- Marta Cardona sent a header over the bar early on when Asllani dropped deep and and cleverly played Jakobsson in-behind to beat the press. That was one of the rare occasions where Madrid CFF tried to impose themselves higher up the pitch — largely because they didn’t have that many opportunities to do so. Real’s security on the ball and constant possession regains ensured that they spent most of their time in the opposition’s half. Goal kicks were few and far between and the ones that did materialize usually came from Madrid CFF’s counter-attacks, giving little time for the away side to organize into a more aggressive shape. I do wonder what Las Blancas might’ve looked like against a consistent press, as the few other times we saw it Real just punted the ball long, but credit to Aznar’s team for being so dominant that they didn’t have to worry about their achilles heel.
- If there was one problem offensively in the first forty-five minutes, it was that Real Madrid were a little wasteful in front of goal. Coupled with Madrid CFF’s potency in offensive transition, you would’ve been forgiven for wondering if it was going to be one of those days. Then, finally, Jakobsson made the decisive contribution in the 36th minute, when she calmly lofted Aurélie Kaci’s laser-guided cross over the keeper and into the far corner.
- The start of the second half was much the same as the first; Madrid eating up most of the possession and patiently trying to break down Madrid CFF packed near their box. Real had two good penalty shouts: the first for a rather clear push on Asllani as she chased a rebound and the second for a handball that was a little harder to decipher on the one replay that was shown. Madrid were furious on both occasions but it was clear that they would need to finish this game off in a manner that would leave no doubt in the referee’s mind, but the next goal always seemed a few centimeters away.
- This was a problem, since Madrid CFF’s counter-attacking game continued to grow throughout the 2nd half. In the 49th minute, they should’ve scored as they had a 3v1 counter-attack that was only denied by an epic goal-line tackle by Olga Carmona. In the 67th minute, Madrid CFF’s coach made some subs, bringing off left-winger Laura Domínguez and #10/2nd striker Priscila Borja off for ‘Maca’ and Estela Fernández, respectively. Maca made an instant impact with her ball carrying and off-ball movement beyond the last line and mirrored the quality that Valeria had shown on the opposite flank in the first half.
- Aznar reacted by bringing off Thaisa for Asllani in a bid to be more defensive and reactive and to secure the lead, making Jakobsson lead the line. The Swede ended up fashioning the goal-sealing assist inside the last 10 minutes when she burst forward on Real’s own 3v1 counter-attack. Unlike their crosstown rivals, Cardona made no mistake and calmly slotted a left-footed finish past the keeper.
- Misa went down injured in the dying embers of the game and had to be replaced by Yohana. Let’s hope it’s nothing serious.
- There were a lot of great individual performances today and it feels almost silly to spell out how literally everyone made a positive impact — I’ll leave that to Grant with the player ratings. Instead, I’ll reemphasize the improved tactical look of the team; switching the play, looking to find Asllani between the lines, quick ball circulation, support for combinations, and high pressing. It’s only one game, but this does look drastically different from what we’ve seen in the past.