Real Madrid were completely dominant in a 6-0 win over Sturm Graz in the first of four potential UWCL qualifiers (only one more is guaranteed). Below are my immediate thoughts on the game, accompanied by some highlights.
Player ratings and a post-match podcast will follow.
- Alberto Toril didn’t take any risks with his starting XI, going with his most experienced midfield in Weir-Zornoza-Toletti.
- Much of preseason had seen some combination of the aforementioned trio, in addition to Maite and Teresa, operate in a 4-3-3. Madrid’s formation was harder to classify vs. Sturm Graz. The frequency with which Toletti and Zornoza dropped off to sit in the same line as each other was notable, but it was usually biased to the right side of the pitch, with Weir floating around the high-left halfspace. As the ball progressed forward, whoever was on the right would push up and the midfield would take on an inverted look. You could call it an asymmetric double pivot or an asymmetric midfield three (I would choose the latter), but ultimately it’s semantics. Weir, Toletti, and Zornoza were extremely fluid and interchanged and linked up with remarkable synergy, overwhelming Sturm Graz’s 4-5-1 block and establishing total control.
- The first whiffs of what was to come arrived in the 11th minute. Toletti found Weir between the lines, leading to a one-two between the latter and Esther, which ended with a missed shot from a great location in the box.
- Nevertheless, Madrid didn’t have to wait too long for their goal. A switch bounced off of Athenea’s head and into Weir, who quickly set the youngster away. Esther dispatched the resulting cross.
- Esther, by the way, could’ve had a hat-trick in the first half; she missed a rebound from an Athenea long shot that was tipped onto the bar in the 18th minute, before striking the bar herself from a 40th-minute Kenti cross.
- After a glut of chances, Las Blancas made it 2-0 in the 37th minute. Esther brought down a goalkeeper punch from a corner and put the ball back into the area, which Sturm Graz cleared, again. However, possession fell only as far as Weir, who killed the ball with a deft touch. Zornoza then found Toletti, prompting the Frenchwoman to loft a cross into the box; Esther latched onto it and cut a delivery back for Naomie Feller to convert.
- At halftime, Toril rested Toletti for Teresa and brought off Feller for Svava, moving Athenea to the right and bringing Olga up a position on the left.
- Esther picked up her brace in the 53rd minute, receiving between the lines and feeding Kenti down the overlap. Esther made a beeline to the box and thumped the return ball into the net.
- Zornoza bowed out at the half-hour mark, making way for Maite — something that would’ve given Sturm Graz little mental relief.
- Esther’s appetite for goals only increased as the half progressed and she scored a hat-trick in the 62nd minute, striking a Svava cross on the volley.
G⚽️L, G⚽️L y G⚽️L de @Estheeer9 para ser la tercera jugadora del @realmadridfem en anotar un hat - trick en un partido.— Misa Malena Ortiz (@Misa_CF) August 18, 2022
1) Asllani Valencia
2) Møller Breidablik
3) Esther Sturm Graz#HalaMadrid | #RMCity pic.twitter.com/zOoE6CcLR9
- Then, Estherminator got even hungrier, nabbing a poker from a brilliant Maite pass.
Vaya jugada al toque del @realmadridfem que acabó de la mejor manera posible. Maite la puso al borde del área pequeña y ahí @Estheeer9 hizo su póker de goles. #HalaMadrid | #RMCity pic.twitter.com/5dKhHnApOX— Misa Malena Ortiz (@Misa_CF) August 18, 2022
- Toril took mercy on Sturm Graz and subbed her off for Nahikari right after. At this point, things were a proper 4-4-2/4-2-3-1, given that Møller had replaced Weir only minutes before the fifth goal.
- The cherry on top: here’s Athenea to make it 6-0 after running onto a through ball from Møller:
- With this victory, Real Madrid progress to the “final” of their Round 1 group to face Manchester City, who defeated Tomiris-Turan 6-0. If Madrid win, they move onto Round 2, where they must beat an opponent in a two-legged tie.