After 560 days, Real Madrid returned home to their beloved Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Carlo Ancelotti was not worried about the mid-week game vs Inter Milan, nor the following weekend’s match vs Valencia, nor any potential long term injuries after the international break as he put out his strongest starting XI available. Despite the four South American players — Casemiro, Militao, Valverde, and Vinicius JR — only returning from their 7 hour flight on Thursday evening, all four started. It was a chaotic match, played at a frantic pace, but included a grand total of 7 goals with Vinicius JR, Karim Benzema, and Luka Modric all stealing the show. Full match player ratings below:
Thibaut Courtois—8: Made a total of 3 saves in this match, including 2 from inside the box to keep Real Madrid in the game within the first half. Interestingly, Madrid opted to play long on goal kicks and nearly scored twice from a Courtois long ball to Vinicius JR. If the Belgian can add quality service with his long ball distribution to his repertoire, there will be no doubting him as one of the best in the game.
Dani Carvajal—6.5: Not involved in the offensive side of Real Madrid’s game, but kept Santa Mina and Brais Mendez quiet. Had a team high of 5 tackles and won 6 of his 8 ground duels.
Militao—4.5: A late challenge on Denis Suarez saw him earn an early yellow card. Still seems to be slow out of the gates to start the season— struggling to defend with 50 yards of space behind him. As a positive, he was crucial in the air — winning all 3 of his aerial duels and nullifying any threat from Santi Mina and Iago Aspas in the air.
Nacho—4: Despite making a poor decision to gamble on the second goal conceded and being involved in the first goal conceded with ricochet pass, Nacho otherwise played well. The mistake will be glorified, but Nacho had the highest pass accuracy with 98% from the 4th most passes (60), won all of his ground duels, tied for team high in clearances (4), and completed all of his long balls. The organization on the press and individual errors has been the downfall of the team’s defending, not Nacho.
Miguel Gutierrez—5.5: Up and down performance. Was caught on the ball and struggled with the pressure from Celta early in the game, particularly in the first half. But like the match against Betis, he grew into the game in the 2nd half. The fullback has undeniable quality going forward and put in an inch-perfect cross to Benzema for the 2nd Madrid goal of the game.
Casemiro—6: Looked a little leg heavy, particularly in a footrace with Iago Aspas, but stuck to his role despite the lack of energy. Played a great pass to Fede Valverde to help provide a break through on Real Madrid’s first goal.
Luka Modric—9: The Croatian is simply world class. He dictated all of Madrid’s good play and help facilitate the progression out of the back. It must be pure joy to play alongside Modric — whenever you are in a tough spot, just pass the Croatian the ball and he’ll find a way out. Produced an incredible bit of individual skill, beating four Celta Vigo players in one dribbling sequence, before shooting with the outside of his boot. The shot was parried, but gave Camavinga the opportunity to score his debut goal.
Fede Valverde—7: Provided a wonderful assist to Benzema on the first equalizing goal, re-directing Casemiro’s long ball back across goal for the Frenchman to volley into the back for the net. Despite limited rest, ran tirelessly and utilized his strong ball carrying abilities to progress the team up the pitch quickly. As the game wore on, moved further and further towards the right wing rather than the center of the pitch.
Vinicius JR—9: The Brazilian is coming of age. He has discovered the ever elusive confidence in front of goal, as noted by his four goals in four La Liga games. Vini is just electric and his direct running and ability to take players on 1 v 1 separates him as unique, different compared to all other in the squad. With 5 completed dribbles, including the sequence which earned the 90th minute penalty, and 3 shots on target — Vini is becoming a constant threat and one of the first names on the team sheet.
Eden Hazard—6: The Belgian played in a more central role, while Fede Valverde moved towards the wing. The change in position mitigates his lack of explosiveness and focuses on his deft touches and subtle flicks to combine the midfield and the attack. Hazard was involved and had a couple of shots on target, but never really left his stamp on the match. On the 2nd goal that Madrid conceded, it was Hazard playing as a left winger, who failed to track Hugo Mallo’s run and allowed the fullback to take full advantage of the space left behind Miguel and Nacho.
Karim Benzema—10: King Karim — the Frenchman is aging like a fine wine, better with each passing season and each passing game. He has started the year once again as the team’s most valuable player and bagged a well deserved hat-trick tonight, along with another assist.
9 - With five goals and four assists, Karim Benzema is the second @realmadriden player to be involved in nine goals in his first four @LaLigaEN games of the season in the 21st century, after Cristiano Ronaldo in 2014/15 (nine goals). Spectacular. pic.twitter.com/65rOFbvyQ6— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 12, 2021
Eduardo Camavinga—8: What a debut for the 18-year-old — a goal at the Santiago Bernabeu within 6 minutes of entering the match. Covered a lot of ground during his time on the pitch and may be an important asset for Carlo Ancelotti this season.
Marco Asensio—N/A: Came in for Luka Modric, but played on the right wing as Fede Valverde shifted centrally.
Rodyrgo—N/A: Entered in the 89th minute for Vinicius JR.
Marcelo—N/A: Entered in the 89th minute for Miguel.