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Immediate Reaction: Elche 1 - 2 Real Madrid (Copa del Rey 2021-22)

Real Madrid manages a spectacular Copa comeback in extra time while rotating several key players.

FBL-ESP-CUP-ELCHE-REAL MADRID Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti is not known for rotating the team much, so Copa del Rey games have been a valuable opportunity to do so. Against Elche, Real managed to rest Courtois, Militao (Supercopa red card suspension), Mendy, Casemiro, Modric, and Benzema. However, this B team certainly struggled a lot to defeat Elche in a game that went into a dramatic extra time.

The first half saw Los Blancos concede a couple of huge chances due to Elche's wing play. Elche had a combination of attackers that proved troublesome for Real's defense: their fast wingers and Lucas Pérez went behind Lucas and Marcelo (Real's weaker fullbacks defensively) while Guido Carillo threatened Alaba and Nacho, who were weaker in strength and aerially.

On the other side of the pitch, Real was not generating much. The team felt the absence of Modric and Benzema, often losing the ball closer to Lunin's goal than usual. This issue also made Elche's counterattacks even more dangerous.

Towards the end of the half things got better as Marcelo finally woke up and started combining more successfully with Vinicius, allowing Real to keep the ball in the opposition half more frequently. Camavinga’s good passing performance also helped greatly with this.

The second half saw Real Madrid control the game better, but good chances were still hard to come by. The team became more dynamic, with Rodrygo, Vinicius, Camavinga, and Valverde rotating positions more frequently to try to disorder the Elche deep block. However, the team lacked the firepower in the box to really take advantage of what Vinicius and Rodrygo were creating, with Jovic producing zero shots throughout the entire game. The Brazilian duo had to create the chances and try to finish themselves. Real forced a couple- of saves from keeper Axel Werner but didn't really produce a big chance. Towards the end of the game, Modric, Casemiro, and Isco came in for Valverde, Camavinga, and Jovic. Modric in particular provided a much-needed offensive boost for the team, helping them move the ball more quickly in the final third. However, the goal didn't come and the game went to extra time.

Extra time proved to be a source of incredible drama. Ceballos and Hazard came in to replace Kroos and Rodrygo at the start of extra time. Elche had the advantage in the first half, looking faster than a Real Madrid side where Marcelo, Isco, Hazard struggled to run and track backin defense. This issue led to Elche's goal, where after a corner Isco and Hazard did not prevent the ensuing counter, forcing Marcelo to do a last-man foul on Morente and earning a (controversial) red card. The ensuing free kick led to a shot from Verdú that deflected off Ceballos into Lunin's goal.

In the second half of ET, however, Real turned the game on its head, dominating and pushing back Elche against their goal, led once again by the treat of Vinicius and Modric's virtuous close control and passing. This siege on the Elche box finally led to a goal in which a Ceballos shot bounced off Isco and into the goal.

And in the 115th minute, the amazing happened. Alaba was playing essentially as a left back, and he saw that Hazard was in position to make a run behind Elche's defensive line. Alaba lobbed a great pass to Hazard, who took advantage of the keeper coming out of his goal in desperation, dribbled past him, and scored with an empty goal. The team managed to get a win in a very complicated scenario, and Ancelotti's men move to the next round of the Copa.

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