“It had to be her! It had to be Caroline Weir,” exclaimed Juan Ignacio Ocaña as the Real Madrid No. 11 ran with outstretched arms toward the ecstatic fans who packed the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano on Sunday night.
Moments before celebrations ensued, Las Blancas’ pressure turned Manchester City over in the latter’s defensive third. Naomie Feller then played a pass to Esther González at the edge of the 18-yard box.
The woman of the moment was positioned between two City defenders at the top of the area. Esther drove at her defender and then cut it back. With every movement the Spanish striker made, Caroline Weir made a reactionary positional change in preparation to receive the ball.
Esther curled a low cross to the Scotswoman. The City center-back stepped to pressure Weir and Madrid’s new star signing controlled the ball expertly on the turn. Three defenders in blue rushed to pressure Weir. But, for her, it was like time slowed for a brief moment.
Weir held off her defender, calibrated, and smashed a left-footed rocket into the top corner of the same goal in which she had scored for City the last time these two teams met in Madrid.
¡Abriendo el marcador con estilo!— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadridfem) August 21, 2022
⚽️ @itscarolineweir #UWCL pic.twitter.com/5auyrtdxbB
Weir’s golazo would prove to be the deciding strike in Real Madrid’s 1-0 victory over Manchester City. The win sends Las Blancas into the final round of qualification for the UEFA Women’s Champions League Group Stage – the same round in which Weir and City were eliminated by the Madrid side a year prior.
The Scottish midfielder has already solidified herself within the hearts of Madridistas. She was beloved by many before she signed for Real Madrid because of her professed love for the club and Zinedine Zidane. But, after her performances to start the season, she is rapidly becoming a fan favorite.
Weir kicked off preseason with a goal inside the first twelve minutes of the match and proceeded to score twice more as Las Blancas prepared for the UWCL Qualifiers.
She was unable to notch in her first official appearance for the club but Weir still displayed the impact she can have on a match. Not only did she display her pressing prowess, but also showed her ability to slice open defenses and dictate the pace of play. Real Madrid dismantled Sturm Graz 6-0, setting up the Caroline Weir Derby in which Weir and Madrid eventually emerged victorious.
Weir’s goal was a work of art, but her overall performance in the match was a masterpiece. The midfielder did more than play a crucial role in Real Madrid’s success in possession — she also helped dictate how the Cityzen’s were able to play.
Weir played in a kind of free No. 10 role. Sandie Toletti and Claudia Zornoza made up the double pivot behind her as Alberto Toril opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation. The Scottish midfielder had the freedom to drop deep, drift wide, or slide into the front line alongside Esther, with whom she has formed a formidable partnership.
Esther and Weir took turns stretching back the defense while the other dropped in between the lines and exploited the gap between defense and midfield. They then looked to find Feller or Athenea del Castillo making overlapping runs, or played quick one-two combinations to each other in an attempt to feed one another in on goal.
Weir, Zornoza, and Toletti were able to launch the team forward with penetrative passes, but were also able to slow the game down to gain control and set the tempo.
In the same way that the midfield was able to establish how Las Blancas went forward, the trio set the tone defensively — and Weir was integral in that regard.
Weir formed a front two with Esther as the Madrid side defended in a 4-4-2. The majority of City’s attacks went down their left flank as they looked to get the ball to the ever-dangerous Lauren Hemp.
Esther stepped to the ball carrier and Weir dropped in to shadow Keira Walsh and limit her impact. One only has to think back to Ella Toone’s delightful go-ahead goal against Germany in the EURO final to recall just how dangerous Walsh can be when she is afforded time and space. Walsh is the puppeteer that pulls City’s strings, and Weir did wonderfully to constantly annoy her and force the English midfielder into backward passes while limiting her control over the match.
Real Madrid Femenino's press against Man City Women | UWCL— Yash (@Odriozolite) August 23, 2022
•Weir & Esther constantly marking Walsh in buildup
•Denying central progression & forcing wide
•Support from the double pivot in marking options
Weir’s ability to turn defense into attack, dictate the pace of play, and create and finish chances proved to be the difference in an important clash with her former team. Weir is a world-class player with a skill set that Las Blancas benefit greatly from. Real Madrid have not only added an extraordinary player to their ranks, but found a player that fits in like a missing puzzle piece.
Real Madrid previously struggled to create chances through the center of the pitch. Weir has fashioned opportunities centrally and used her late runs from midfield to provide goals from the same area. Las Blancas lacked variance in attack last season and Weir not only has linked well with Esther, but has fostered blooming partnerships with the other midfielders, Olga Carmona, and Athenea del Castillo. Weir provides dangerous service from set-pieces, can provide cross-field and defense-splitting passes, and offers a constant threat from distance.
Real Madrid have only played two official matches this season, but Caroline Weir has already made her mark and seems to have unlocked something new in attack for her team. If the club is to pass through into the UWCL Group Stage and beyond, reclaim second place in Primera Iberdrola, and become one of the world’s top teams, Weir will be at the heart of it all.
It’s Weir’s World, and we’re all just living in it.