Real Madrid began the 2022-23 in the same vein as they ended the previous one - by winning a European trophy. The UEFA Super Cup is often deemed as a conclusion to preseason shenanigans. Frankfurt had already begun their season, albeit in a crushing 6-0 defeat to Bayern Munich while Madrid were getting upto speed for La Liga at the weekend.
Despite that Los Merengues won by 2 goals and in the process became the 3rd team to win 5 UEFA Super Cups after AC Milan and Barcelona, while Ancelotti became the first manager to win 4 UEFA Super Cups. Los Blancos added to the Spanish dominance in European competition in the 21st century.
Real Madrid’s 2 goal victory over Europa League winners, Eintracht Frankfurt, saw Benzema become the outright 2nd all time top goalscorer in Los Blancos’ history with 324 goals, overtaking club legend Raul. Thibaut Courtois kept yet another clean sheet in the final and made some splendid saves.
Here is how the game panned out in numbers
Game Flow and Threat Creation
The opening quarter of the game was tricky for Los Blancos. Frankfurt were able to manipulate spaces and had a couple of dangerous opportunities. Japanese international, Daichi Kamada, managed to swoop in between the lines and attack the space between the midfield and defensive lines of Madrid to get the shots off. Fortunately for Madrid, Courtois picked up right where he left last season. The Belgian goalkeeper kept a lid on the scoreline.
Madrid found some joy as well with Vinicius being a nightmare to come up against. The Brazilian forced a goal line clearance. Madrid scored from a corner and calmed things down resulting in a slight momentum shift. Madrid started to find space and thus more opportunities going forwards, they closed half strongly and looked likelier to extend their lead.
This period following the first goal, saw Madrid settle and enter the final third and create shooting opportunities. They looked threatening on the transitions and managed to dominate territory over their opponent. They looked in control for large parts in the 2nd half. In the 65th minute, Benzema doubled Madrid’s lead, as has become the norm in Madrid’s games from a Vinicius assist. The Vinicius-Benzema duo picked up things right from last season. Ancelotti introduced some new faces towards the end with Antonio Rudiger and Aurélien Tchouaméni both getting some minutes. Rudiger slotted in at RB, not disturbing the harmony between the CB duo of Militao and Alaba.
Ancelotti went with the “Gala XI” from last season. Fede Valverde compensated on the right flank while also regularly tucking inside. The Uruguayan was explosive as ever with his ball carries and was Madrid’s only route to create any danger from in the opening half hour. His defensive workrate was amazing, as he regularly helped create parity in the wide areas.
During buildup, Madrid utilized Kroos as their way forward, looking to bypass Casemiro. The German was often seen dropping deeper than Casemiro to pick up the ball from the first phase of play. This can be noted from the average passing location for Kroos as well. In the final third, the left bias of Benzema and Madrid’s attack in general was clearly visible. Benzema regularly showed for the ball in those spaces to support progression and was spectacular at releasing Vini or Fede in behind.
Frankfurt utilized a 5-3-2 or a 5-2-3 shape against the ball, maintaining great deal of control in the central areas. They had lost one of their biggest threats in Filip Kostic coming into the game, so they had to compensate in some areas. They guarded the central areas of the pitch really well, with their wingback and central midfielders showing good understanding to protect the space in behind them. Their pressing was methodical and they were selective in jumping up to apply pressure managing to force Madrid towards the touchline and then engaging them. This approach initially posed questions for Madrid as they found it quite hard to have central progression. In attack they managed to play a quick exchanges between the midfield and attack to exploit the space between Madrid’s lines.
Karim Benzema has been the epitome of standout performers in games in the last few seasons, even when he’s not on the scoresheet. This final was no different, the French international had a goal but arguably could have had a brace for himself and was instrumental for Madrid in the final third of the pitch. His off-ball movements into the left half-space to receive, disorientated the opposition defence and his ability to quickly turn and release the ball for Vinicius in behind has been a mainstay of Madrid’s attacking strategy.
Kroos put on a clinic on how to control and run a game. The German international was accurate as ever with his distribution over medium and long ranges, completing 11 out of a total 14 attempted long balls. His defensive acumen was on display, as Kroos made 9 recoveries in the game right in front of the defence. He read plays really well and positioned himself brilliantly to pick up loose balls.
His role in the buildup was crucial too, as Madrid looked to bypass Casemiro and utilize Kroos’ comfort on the ball.
It was a typical performance from Casemiro. He was a defensive monster against the ball and frequently ventured forwards in the final third. He managed to hit the crossbar once from outside the box. His game high of 9 tackles was most by a Madrid player in a game in the last 2 seasons, he won 6 of those tackles. His extremely dominant nature on his defensive duels saw him win 9 out of his 13 ground duels. He mopped up all danger and was an excellent screening presence. His headed cutback resulted in Madrid’s first goal. His performance again highlighted that despite his obvious limitations on the ball there are few players who can play the destroyer role better than Casemiro.
Militão’s slight dip in the second half of the season was slightly concerning but the Brazilian looked really solid in the final. His recovery pace was brilliant, as he managed to get back into positions and keep track of balls and runs in behind. His box defending was excellent, as he managed to clear aerial threats brilliantly. He stepped up into the midfield with the ball (in some part due to Frankfurt’s strategy to not jump the CB on most occasions) and provided good cover behind Carvajal as well.
With Antonio Rudiger breathing down his neck should push the Brazilian to regain his levels from the first half of previous season. It will be interesting to see his development throughout the season.