Elche 0 - 3 Real Madrid (Valverde, Benzema, Asensio). Here’s our quick reaction upon the final whistle. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game quotes, post-game podcast, statistical analysis, and plenty more.
The first game after a Clasico is always a slippery slope. Real Madrid has, throughout its history, had plenty of big moments followed by a hangover in an ‘easier’ game. In fact, the next game against a small team is often not easy at all, and is called a ‘banana peel’ for a reason. Tonight’s trip to Elche had the classic elements of a potential trap: Real Madrid had just beaten Barcelona and lifted several big awards at the Balon D’or ceremony. Elche are last place, and have taken four points off of Real Madrid in the last two years.
But Real Madrid responded to those concerns well. Carlo Ancelotti made a couple rotations (Ferland Mendy and Aurelien Tchouameni both started on the bench), and Real Madrid pushed a higher line than normal.
And with the less conservative approach, they looked surgical in the first half, combining well all over the field with quick passes and movement, 1-2s, involvement from the full-backs, and lots of good movement in the central channels and half-spaces. Through multiple sequences in the first half, they produced two goals ruled out for marginal offsides, and one real goal, another thing of beauty from Federico Valverde, who quite frankly resembles a video character who can’t be stopped:
Real Madrid went into half-time up just one goal but in full control. Their defense suffered some transition attacks, but given how potent the offense looked, they could afford to push on the gas a bit as they held Elche to minimal clear-cut chances.
Real Madrid’s 4-3-3 had Toni Kroos playing as the single pivot in the build-up phase, with Fede Valverde hedging to the right quite a bit to overload the right side with Rodrygo Goes. Kroos, it should be noted, also was terrific again on defense:
Kroos has taken his defensive effort to a whole new level this season. That was never a strong suit of his, though he was always a good presser. His tracking and challenges have been great all year, and again today.— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) October 19, 2022
Fede & Rodrygo's combined heat-map, good ol' double-RW punch pic.twitter.com/pZ0QIZx29h
In the second half, Ancelotti had his team continue playing with a more aggressive line, and Elche were happy to chase the game and grow more and more daring. What ensued was some uncomfortable moments on defense, a couple of really good saves from Andriy Lunin, and as the game unfolded into its deeper stages, more space for Real Madrid to run into, culminating in two really good goals (and two more disallowed goals for offisde), scored by Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio:
Karim Benzema's first goal since being named Ballon d'Or winner is just perfect after that link up with Rodrygo pic.twitter.com/6odXVedGOj— SuperSport Football ⚽️ (@SSFootball) October 19, 2022
A vital three points. We’ll cover this in much more detail in the coming hours in both written and podcast form.