In the month of January, you would be forgiven for thinking Real Madrid has only played two teams. Athletic Bilbao and Elche have had to face Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid on more than one occasion. The setting would be different, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu, but the schedule demanded Elche return for a consecutive match after an extra-time loss in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.
Ancelotti opted for his strongest XI, with one change, Eden Hazard started on the right wing in place of Rodrygo Goes. Despite a first half where Real Madrid managed 13 shots and an xG of 2.5 (which includes a missed penalty by Karim Benzema), they went into the break 1-0 down. Rather than maintain control, the 2nd half was chaotic and Madrid opted between a 4-2-4 and a 4-2-3-1 formation. Elche would find another goal in the 76th, forcing Madrid to come from behind for the second consecutive match. A goal from the penalty spot, this time by Luka Modric, and a stoppage time equalizer from “Air Militao” salvaged a point.
Full match player ratings below:
Thibaut Courtois—6: Elche had two shots all game and scored from each shot. Courtois had little to do in the match and can take little blame on the goals.
Lucas Vazquez—7.5: Given Elche’s narrow mid-block and Hazard’s tendency to roam centrally or to the left, Lucas Vazquez was a constant outlet on the right flank. Did well to bring down long cross-field switches while under pressure and had 3 key passes.
Eder Militao—8.5: Won the hearts and minds of the Santiago Bernabeu tonight. Prior to his game winning goal with an incredibly athletic leap in the 92nd minute (a la Sergio Ramos), he was applauded by the whole of the Bernabeu for catching up to Fidel, some 20 yards in front of him, and winning the ball back.
David Alaba—6: Lucas Boye has always impressed when playing against Real Madrid and tonight was no different. Sucked Alaba in and baited him into a tackle before releasing Milla for Elche’s second goal of the game. Aside from that defensive lapse, Alaba was ever present in possession and had brilliant long ball over the top of the defense to Karim Benzema which nearly resulted in a goal.
Ferland Mendy—8: Continues to be a defensive wall that opposition wingers run into time and time again. Contributed with 3 key passes and 4 completed dribbles.
Casemiro—7.5: Strangely opted to take shots from outside the box when other passing options were available. But the real question is did the pros of his defensive effort outweigh some of the cons of his on-ball decisions tonight? The answer is yes. He was immense defensively — 7/7 aerial duels won, 8 ball recoveries, and 5 completed tackles. Even hit the woodwork with a powerful header off the crossbar.
Toni Kroos—6: Substituted in the 64th minute and never really got going in this match.
Luka Modric—7: Took the responsibility of the second penalty kick after Benzema had been replaced due to injury. Tried to orchestrate from midfield, but Madrid lost control of the game in the second half.
Vinicius Junior—8.5: Should have scored in this match given his 2 big chances missed. Though the misses did not deter from another strong Vinicius Junior performance. The Brazilian was relentless in the dying stages of the match and produced 6 dribbles completed from the 75th minute onward. Had 4 key passes including the assist to Eder Militao in the 92nd minute. Also won the first penalty which was ultimately missed by Karim Benzema.
Eden Hazard—6.5: Started on the right wing, but was rarely positioned there. Roamed centrally and tried to create numerical superiority on the left wing with quick combinations. Managed 2 key passes, but never managed to truly stamp his authority on the match. Needs to be quicker to pull the trigger inside the box.
Karim Benzema—6: Came off with an injury in the 58th minute, but was still involved heavily in the game. Freed Mendy in the left half space with a delicate touch that placed him 1 v 1 with Badia, but the left back was denied by the Elche goalkeeper. Missed a penalty, but still managed 5 shots including 2 on target that nearly nestled into the back of the net.
Luka Jovic—2: Another poor showing against Elche for Luka Jovic. Had just 7 touches in 30 minutes and was never on the same wavelength as his teammates. Ancelotti will have to decide if he wants to give the Serbian the confidence and continuity required to get the best out of his talent or go with Isco/Hazard while Benzema is out with injury.
Rodrygo—5: Had one golden opportunity in the 85th minute after being released by Vinicius Junior in a central position, but squandered the shot.
Isco—N/A: Replaced Hazard and played in the #10 role. Tried to get involved and connect play.
Fede Valverde—N/A: Played as an attacking right wing back for the final 10 minutes of the game.