Real Madrid drew 2-2 with Levante in a fantastic contest that showcased some of the best of what Liga F has to offer. The fixture was held at Levante’s main stadium and fans were treated to a great performance from their favored side, who forced Las Blancas to come from behind after going behind themselves.
Below are my immediate thoughts and analysis, along with some highlights. A post-match podcast will follow.
- Alberto Toril was missing Caroline Weir due to injury and also opted to keep Athenea on the bench. On the other hand, José Luis Sánchez Vera started a full-strength attack.
- Levante started the game as expected, pressing with intensity and immediately threatening Misa’s goal. Perhaps the one (slightly) surprising thing was how intent the home side were to work the ball through short connections vs. Madrid’s early 4-4-2 high block. Alba Redondo dropped off frequently to overload the midfield, turn pressure, and launch attacks. Andonova also did this as a secondary option, while Mayra Ramírez often hung out near the touchline or up top as an outlet. This stands in stark contrast to the Levante under Ángel Villacampa last season, who were relentlessly vertical and direct, sometimes to their detriment.
- Madrid had some success turning the ball higher up but quickly became more judicious with how aggressive they were. Levante’s midfield was impressive, working the ball through quick patterns and looking to break lines at every opportunity. However, Las Blancas threatened early by sending Maite through on goal (she missed a rather good 1v1, although the lofted nature of the pass made her finish tricky) and looked poised to take advantage of any mistake in build-up. In the 20th minute, Madrid capitalized, with Teresa Abelleira blasting a beauty from the edge of the box.
No diga Teresa, diga GOLAZOS pic.twitter.com/RzsyIPhNuB— InfoRealMadrid (@Info_Real_) October 23, 2022
- Levante turned up the dial for the rest of the half, using their long option a few times to test Misa’s sweeker-keeping abilities; one moment saw Misa clear the ball straight to Andonova near the halfway line, but the resulting shot fell well short of the unguarded goal. Redondo was the standout player of the half for Levante, managing to get her side’s best chance of the game with a 1v1 that Misa saved superbly. Real still found a decent amount of offensive transition in these moments, but were clearly the side on the back foot.
- Levante continued where they left off in the second half. Their ability to dominate final-third territory quickly reached its zenith and they started threatening the box every few minutes. Madrid had relinquished too much control and soon paid for it. Looking shaky defending set-pieces all night, they conceded on one in the 51st minute. Alba Redondo deservedly nabbed a goal and equalized proceedings.
- Toril reacted by bringing on Toletti for Zornoza and Athenea for Feller in the 56th minute. But the effects were not immediate. Instead, Levante continued to look better, with Mayra Ramírez taking over the show from her strike partner. Her first great moment came when she turned a defender and streaked into space to spark a counter. Then, she nearly got off a clean shot in the box. In the 59th minute she scored, bullying defenders in the box before nutmegging Misa.
- Toril made more changes in the 68th minute, replacing Lucía and Olga with Rocío and Nahikari, respectively, moving Madrid to a 3-5-2/3-4-1-2 formation. This definitely made an impact. Combined with Levante becoming more conservative, the greater expansiveness of the shape (Levante often defended narrow in a 4-3-1-2) and additional player occupying the defense allowed for easier progression and more options attacking the last line. In the 73rd minute, Nahikari got in behind off of a chip from Maite and converted, making the scoreline level once again.
- Levante reacted and made the match more of an even battle again, with both teams exchanging attacks. Madrid could’ve got the better of those moments but were sloppy with their passing and desperately fired long balls from deep. Maite had a strange performance in the former respect, following up moments of genuine quality with poorly-weighted balls. Svava was a big culprit in terms of the latter problem.
- Toril made his last gambit near the end, bringing on Møller for Maite to get additional box presence. It was a logical swap given the game environment but there was too little time for the Dane to make an impact.