Real Madrid defeated Levante 1-0 with a late goal from Lorena Navarro. This was a key victory in Las Blancas’ race for UWCL qualification.
Below is my immediate reaction and tactical thoughts on what went down. A piece on the key performers of the day and a post-match podcast will follow.
- Alberto Toril went with his classic 4-2-3-1, instituting minimal rotations due to the important nature of this fixture and the lack of midfield options, with Kaci being unavailable. The few changes happened on the flanks and in defense: Nahikari in for Olga; Kenti in for Lucía; Ivana in for Babs. This put Maite on the right wing, much to the chagrin of Madridistas, who did not like the results of this experiment when it was tried a few weeks ago.
- Levante coach Ángel Villacampa went with an interesting 4-4-2 diamond look, playing Nataša Andonova behind strikers Gio and Alba Redondo. The purpose of this became very clear in the 13th minute, when Levante used their midfield to create a tight triangle on their left, playing the ball in fast combinations to progress up the flank. This sucked Kenti forward and allowed one striker to make a run in behind, with the other following in the next channel. This put immense pressure on Madrid’s defense and opened up the far side for Andonova to attack, which allowed her to break away into space on this play. A poor touch was the only thing that held her back from going 1v1 with Misa, and Rocío was able to recover to block the shot.
- Real Madrid were, unsurprisingly, pretty mediocre; the intensity they spent vs. Barcelona clearly came with a price and nearly every individual made some kind of mistake or mental error, leading to a match without a clear flow or rhythm. This made it difficult to capitalize on the random transition moments that tend to be offensive gold for Madrid’s attack, with Athenea botching a cross terribly in the middle of the half and Esther completely missing the aforementioned winger in acres of space to end the first period.
- Andonova, who had looked dangerous with her runs and interchanges with RCM Érika González, got injured in the 28th minute and was replaced by Fiamma.
- Despite Las Blancas’ inefficiencies, they still had dangerous moments on the break. Esther created a turnover half an hour in and forced Irene Guerrero to foul and pick up a yellow just outside the box. Kenti also made a few carrying actions into space that seriously challenge Levante’s defense.
- The Granotes kept responding with moves of their own and Redondo prompted Misa into a sharp save in injury time, following Érika’s cross and a 1v1 move that left Svava in her wake.
- Madrid’s woes from a focus perspective continued after the break. Ivana gave away the ball outside her own area in the 48th, nearly leading to a 1v1 for Levante.
- Madrid replied with a flurry of half-opportunities. In the 52nd min, Athenea fed Kenti on the underlap, who lobbed a cross that bounced up on Maite at the far post, influencing a volley well off target. That was one of the home side’s most well-constructed moves, although most others shots came in transition, which became increasingly frequent as the match progressed and Levante found it difficult to control the game.
- Nahikari García struck the bar with an incredible shot from distance and ended up being subbed off alongside Maite a minute later, bringing on Olga Carmona and Møller.
- The impact of the duo was immediate; Mø played a one-two with Olga on the counter and redirected a cutback at the keeper. It was Madrid’s best chance of the game up until that point.
- Later, Olga got free of her mark and played a brilliant cross into the box that Esther put over the bar, having to backpedal awkwardly to make contact.
- Real were also able to apply significant pressure on set-pieces on top but were unable to fashion clear shots from these situations.
- Toril went for it in the 81st, replacing Kenti with Lorena Navarro and Athenea for Carla Camacho. This put Møller at right back, Lorena behind Esther, and Camacho at right wing.
- Everything started happening near the end. Esther had a penalty shout before Camacho found the target off of another Olga cross. Then, Møller played a pass to Esther in the box, creating a series of chaotic actions that saw the ball fall to Lorena for a tap-in, finally putting Madrid in the lead.
- Toril promptly subbed on Lucía for Esther to get a natural right back in the team. Lorena played up top with Camacho and Møller moved to the right wing.
- In the 93rd minute, Calligaris burst forward and played a cross into the box that deflected off of Rocío’s knee and out of play, dangerously flitting past the post.
- Madrid held on for the victory, exploding for 10 shots in the second half to grind out three points.