It took a couple of years to get there, but Vinicius is finally making the leap and becoming one of the best attackers in the world. In the previous two seasons, he had scored 6 goals in 64 league games. This season, he already has 7 goals in just 11 games. And it's a great moment for him to reach this level because right now, Ancelotti's men are struggling a lot to control games.
Pues con este ya son 7 los goles de Vinicius. Lleva en 11 partidos más goles ligueros que en las dos temporadas antes juntas. https://t.co/9j9ByiDchP— BeSoccer Pro (@BeSoccerPro) October 30, 2021
Ancelotti chose to do a bit of rotation for this game, leaving Karim Benzema out of the matchday squad to give him a well-deserved weekend of rest. The lineup for the game featured the usual 4-3-3 shape but also two unusual names in the starting XI: Marcelo at left-back and Mariano as a striker. The former does not surprise much since Miguel Gutierrez is injured, but the latter does come as a shock considering Luka Jović was expected to start. However, it seems like the Serbian striker was not at 100% physically due to a knee injury.
✅ ¡Nuestro inicial @elchecf! @UnicajaBanco | #ElcheRealMadrid pic.twitter.com/gBTzmCduD4— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) October 30, 2021
Despite Mariano's limitations, his aggressive movement and work rate are helpful for Real Madrid's attack. What we didn't expect, however, is that at the 22nd minute, Mariano would provide a backheel assist to Vinicius that was worthy of peak Guti. Vinicius finished with precision and ice in his veins despite shooting with his weaker left foot. Kudos here to Casemiro too, who has been going back to his best after the Shakhtar game. He and Militão covered a lot of ground today to guard against Elche attackers.
Before that goal, Real Madrid had to deal with an unfortunate injury to Rodrygo, who was replaced by Asensio.
El 0-1 de Vinicius Jr.— Alberto Edjogo-Owono (@albertoowono) October 30, 2021
♂️ Salida de balón dubitativa del Elche. Bigas+Mojica
⛔️ Pase por dentro de mucho riesgo
Robo de Casemiro y pase vertical
Calidad de Mariano en el apoyo
Vinicius no perdona
After the goal, Real Madrid retreated into a deeper 4-1-4-1 block and gave the initiative to Elche. Perhaps too much initiative, one could argue, as the home side ultimately outshot Real 7 to 5 by the end of the first half. Elche's most significant threat throughout the match was an in-form Lucas Boyé, who seemed able to turn whatever melon his teammates threw at him into a goal-scoring chance. Boyé did a good job holding up the ball and dribbling against Real Madrid defenders, and he was a constant threat trying to make runs in behind the defensive line. He forced a big save from Courtois on a break at the 18th minute. Elche's other big chance came at the 38th minute when Boyé successfully pressured Alaba, and Pastore provided an outstanding backheel assist that Lucas Pérez did not finish well.
During the second half, things did not necessarily improve for Los Blancos. The team had more possession and chances at first, but Elche was doing damage on the break. Real Madrid looked very vulnerable in these transitions when they lost the ball, with significant gaps in the midfield area that made it easy for Elche players to make accurate passes to their forwards. And once again, Boyé continued to be a headache for Real's defense.
Things got a bit easier at the 63rd minute when midfielder Raul Guti (what a name for a footballer!) got himself sent off after a harsh tackle on Kroos earned him a second yellow. Elche lost a bit of initiative here, and Real Madrid had an extended spell of possession and control. However, similar to the game against Osasuna, the team still lacks attacking organization and depends heavily on Vinicius' energy and individual inspiration.
Vini gladly takes on such a big responsibility, though. At the 72nd minute, a great pass from Kroos broke through Elche's pressing line and found Modric, who slipped a ball to Vinicius running in behind Elche's defense. It seemed the Brazilian starlet would run out of space to shoot, but just as the keeper came out to catch the ball, Vinicius produced a spectacular chipped finish from this super tight angle to score the second goal and almost sentence the game.
And I say almost because it looked like things might go out of control at the very end. A poor Casemiro pass during a buildup sequence at the 86th minute bounced off an Elche player and landed at the feet of Pere Milla, who scored the 1-2. Elche did pressure Real on these final minutes despite having just ten men, looking for another goal.
All in all, this was not the most convincing performance of Ancelotti's men. The team is still struggling to control games, especially now that they defend deeper. However, Vinicius and Benzema are playing at such a high level that they often compensate for the tactical issues.