Real Madrid defeated Valencia 2-0 in their inaugural match in the new Liga F.
Below are my immediate thoughts and reactions to the victory alongside some highlights. Player ratings and a post-match podcast will follow.
- Real Madrid started the first half like they often do in league games — very slowly. Valencia were disciplined in their 4-4-2 block and denied easy space to exploit. In general, Madrid lacked dynamic, coordinated movement around receivers in advanced areas, leading to fizzled attacks off of the few line-breaking passes that materialized. Sandie Toletti’s 25th minute long shot was her side’s first attempt of the game.
- Las Blancas’ high press was strong and stifled the opposition; Esther and Weir took the CB’s while Toletti stepped up to the DM. Valencia looked to play lofted balls to their fullbacks and then fashion combinations from there, which led to very little.
- Athenea was one of the few bright spots in the first half. Somewhere along the way, she switched flanks with Møller and started making things happen in team sequences as opposed to the solo genius like below.
- Athenea provided a more dynamic presence on the left in terms of her carrying, desire to initiate combos, and off-ball movement, allowing Madrid to somewhat catalyze Weir’s sharp movement and receptions in the channel and high halfspace.
- Møller, in turn, looked better on the right away from the ball, getting on the end of a headed chance from a Svava cross in the 37th minute.
- Real broke the deadlock near the break, with Athenea sparking a counter that Teresa finished emphatically.
- Valencia kicked off the restart as the proactive force. Macarena Portales, who had caused trouble earlier on, was a menace, taking on Madrid’s left-hand side and putting dangerous balls into the box. Additionally, Madrid had greater trouble playing through a ramped up press, contributing to the away side’s spell of superiority.
- Toril reacted by bringing on Claudia Zornoza for Møller in the 50th minute. This was a curious sub, as it split up the pairing that worked so well to end the first forty-five minutes (Athenea-Weir) and put Weir nominally out of position as a winger (Zornoza became the deepest player, with Tere pushing forward).
- The game became heavily transitional as it reached the hour mark and Weir took advantage, cutting inside and releasing runners on either flank. Athenea was one of those sent off-the-shoulder in a particularly dangerous moment, and was wrongly called offside (the poor line officiating was a theme of the contest).
- Toril made his second set of changes in the 74th minute, replacing Esther and Tere for Nahikari and Maite, respectively.
- Zornoza’s best moment came in the 78th minute, when she fed Toletti in the box with an ingenious pass, but nothing could quite come of it.
- Madrid finally made it count in transition at the very end, with Maite Oroz sending Nahikari on her way via a delightful through ball. Madrid’s #9 dutifully rounded the keeper and made it 2-0, icing the game.
- Nahikari nearly added another in the 94th minute but headed over the bar.
- An unnecessary Sousa error provided a scare at the end, but the All Whites held on for the clean sheet in addition to the three points.