Real Madrid defeated Valencia 2-0 at Estadio Alfredi Di Stéfano to begin the league season on the right note. Coach Alberto Toril decided to roll out a shifting 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation, with superstar signing Caroline Weir starting as a left-sided attacking midfielder.
Overall, Madrid’s performance was pretty laborious, although there were a few passing sequences in the first half that showed glimpses of the team’s building chemistry. However, those plays would just come to an end either due to one of the players being offside, a defensive intervention by the opponent, or the lack of a killer final ball.
After dominating possession in the first half and pinning Valencia in their own half, Teresa Abelleira broke the deadlock in the 41st minute after an excellent Athenea del Castillo run. Valencia were the better side when the second half began, creating a lot of threat around the Real Madrid final third, but were unable to break the defensive wall. Substitute Nahikari García put the game to bed in the 90th minute with an amazing finish, sealing the three points for Las Blancas in the process.
Full player ratings below:
GK: Misa Rodríguez - 7.5/10: Made a few key saves late in the second half, but didn’t have much to do otherwise. Her distribution still remains an area of improvement.
RB: Lucía Rodríguez - 6/10: Slotted in for Kenti Robles and didn’t disappoint defensively. However, her passing and composure when Valencia’s forwards pressed were not up to the mark. Didn’t contribute much offensively either.
CB: Kathellen Sousa - 6.5/10: Was a handful for Valencia’s attackers and didn’t have to conjure something extraordinary to help the team keep a clean sheet. Made a bad mistake at the very end, but it didn’t cost the team.
CB: Ivana Andrés - 7/10: Did well on a few occasions to catch up with the forwards in transition and did well with her progressive passing.
LB: Sofie Svava - 7/10: A promising performance from the Denmark left back, who hasn’t been able to nail down a permanent starting spot ever since arriving from Wolfsburg. Her crossing was dangerous, with one such delivery finding Møller in the first half, only for the midfielder to fire the header over the bar. Was challenged in defense by Macarena Portales.
RCM: Sandie Toletti - 6/10: Not a typical Toletti performance as she struggled to dictate tempo and link the defense and attack.
DM/LCM: Teresa Abelleira - 7/10: Scored a wonderful left-footed goal off of a rebound to open the scoring. Did well to retrieve possession back for the team on a few occasions, but didn’t do anything else spectacular during her 74-minute stay on the pitch.
LCM/RW: Caroline Weir - 6.5/10: Started as a left-sided central attacking midfielder and did very well in tight spaces, ensuring that she didn’t lose the ball, but was moved to the right wing following Caroline Møller’s substitution in the 50th minute. She was often surrounded by more than one player at once, yet she managed to hold onto possession. It wasn’t as authoritative a performance as the previous ones, but not a bad showing either.
RW/LW: Athenea del Castillo - 7/10: She wasn’t afraid to take on defenders (she never is), but her dribbling was just not as effective as it usually is. It was, however, her solo run in the first half that led to Tere’s goal. Her off-ball movement was dangerous, but she was wrongly called offside multiple times.
LW/RW: Caroline Møller Hansen - 5/10: A very subdued performance from the lanky Danish forward. She had very few touches in the Valencia final third and failed to have more than one threatening action in the game.
ST: Esther González - 5.5/10: Real Madrid struggling to create much in the opponent final third meant that Esther had a frustrating evening. She was not at her best, while her involvement in the build-up and her overall link-up play was missing for large portions of the game.
LCM/DM: Claudia Zornoza - 6.5/10 (replaced Møller; 50’): Had a decent outing. Her lofted ball to find Sandie Toletti in the box was one for the highlight reel.
LCM: Maite Oroz - 6.5/10 (replaced Teresa; 74’): Set up fellow substitute Nahikari García for the second goal of the game.
ST: Nahikari García - 7/10 (replaced Esther; 74’): An impactful cameo from the former Real Sociedad striker, as she scored a fascinating goal in the final minute of the game to seal the three points. She received the ball in space in the box, rounded the keeper, and finished with her left boot into an open net. This display could prove to be a major confidence booster for Nahikari.