Real Madrid secured a fifth consecutive victory to start their 2022/23 LaLiga campaign and maintain their title defence by winning their first five matches of a league season for the first time since 2009 and only the second time this century.
Mallorca suffered defeat, their seventh in a row against Real Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, despite taking an early lead, making this the third game from five in which Real Madrid have come from behind to win.
Here are three stats that help to tell the tale of the match.
-7.5: Shots inside the box compared to the season average
Real Madrid have averaged 13.5 shots inside the box per 90 in LaLiga this season, but had only six against Mallorca. Of those five, three were the three goals that gave Real Madrid the victory with a combined 1.3 xG, compared to 0.65 xG from Real Madrid’s other 19 shots.
In the first half, it was Valverde’s 0.05 xG effort that equalised the tie at a time when Mallorca were level on xG and ahead on the scoreboard. That run from deep showed the kind of progression that Real Madrid were struggling to create.
Coming up against a very deep low block and without a reference point in attack, Javier Aguirre’s side were very effective in maintaining that presence and preventing Real Madrid from finding a way through. With Eden Hazard lacking the movement to split the low block either, it wasn’t an ideal situation for Carlo Ancelotti with the Belgian only getting off one shot with 0.05 xG.
With no Luka Modrić to move into those more offensive areas, Dani Ceballos was playing in a deeper role and much of the pressure was on the Uruguayan. That he and Toni Kroos had a total of seven shots, all from outside the box, showed that Real Madrid were growing frustrated as they sought to test Mallorca from distance.
Given that this game was the first to have single figures for shots inside the box, and with two of the six to come beyond the 89th minute, it’s fair to say that while Real Madrid were clinical in creating high-quality chances late on, they struggled to create anything at all earlier on.
4: Chances created by Dani Ceballos
Given a rare start, his first since April and only his third since returning from his loan spell at Arsenal, Dani Ceballos most certainly proved what he is capable of up against Mallorca. With four chances created, he made more goalscoring opportunities than any other player on the pitch on Sunday afternoon, but went beyond that too.
Second only to Toni Kroos for completed passes with 69, and with a 91% accuracy, he led the way in terms of play creation in midfield. Positioning himself just ahead of the German, he was able to work alongside him in dictating the tempo and influencing play. His 91 touches was second only to the German two and the pair connected surprisingly well given that they had not started a game together since April 2019.
He also showed his flexibility. This season, the profiles of players like Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurélien Tchouaméni have upped the stakes with competitions for places simply by showing their versatility to play both as a six or an eight in midfield. Ceballos’ game has at times lacked that more defensive side, but against Mallorca he led Real Madrid’s players in tackles made with two, and looked to break up Mallorca’s play, at times pressing high.
Such performances are only likely to give Ancelotti even more of a selection headache, but with fixtures coming thick and fast over the next two months, Ceballos is already finding himself with a more prominent role in the squad than last season.
4: The winless streak in LaLiga without Karim Benzema before this game
The last time was a 1-0 win over Granada on February 6th 2022. Since then, Real Madrid had seen a 0-0 draw against Villarreal, a 4-0 Clásico defeat to Barcelona, a 1-0 derbi defeat to Atlético Madrid and a 1-1 draw with Cádiz.
To find the last time Real Madrid won a LaLiga game by more than a one goal margin without Benzema, you have to go back to a 2-0 win over Osasuna on September 25th, 2019, while this was the biggest win without the Frenchman in the league since a 6-2 victory over Deportivo La Coruña on April 26th, 2017.
It was only the sixth time since Cristiano Ronaldo departed that Real Madrid have won in LaLiga without Karim, with four defeats and four draws completing the collection since the Portuguese left the club. This time, coming with several games on the horizon without him, was perhaps the most important result yet.
The scoreline may have been boosted by a late onslaught and flattered Real Madrid slightly, but moving on from any “deBenzdencia” is crucial to Ancelotti’s plans this season. To have such young players as Vinícius and Rodrygo on the scoresheet is essential to building for the future.
Question marks will remain over Benzema’s direct replacement, especially given the inconsequential display produced by Hazard, but what this game showed is that Real Madrid do have enough elsewhere in the team to compensate from the lack of an out-and-out number nine... And hopefully avoid seeing Luka Modrić playing their any time soon too.