With qualification already secured, top spot was all Real Madrid had left to play for as they took on Napoli at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night. They sealed it in style with a convincing 4-2 win.
Initially, it was Napoli who took the lead as Giovanni Simeone opened the scoring but Rodrygo fired a rapid response to level the tie. In the blink of an eye, Jude Bellingham had given the home team the lead. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa then pulled Napoli level early in the second half before a late double from substitutes Nico Paz and Joselu got the win for Real Madrid.
Here are three stats that help to explain the result.
2014: The last time Real Madrid won their first five group stage games
With this victory, Real Madrid made it five wins from five in the Champions League group stage so far. That may seem trivial, but it’s a feat which isn’t accomplished as often as some Madridistas may think, even with the team’s total dominance of Europe’s elite competition.
The last time that happened was the last time Real Madrid completed a full set of six wins from six in the group stages, back in 2014. That included home and away wins over Liverpool, FC Basel and Ludogorets with 16 goals scored and only two conceded. Before then, the only other times it has happened this century came in 2011 (against Olympique Lyonnais, Ajax and Dinamo Zagreb) and 2002 (against Sparta Prague, Panathinaikos and Porto), in the second group stage of that format.
Since 2014, and until this season, Real Madrid’s longest winning streak was last season, when matchday four then produced a draw against Shakhtar Donetsk and matchday five followed with a loss to RB Leipzig.
The result also guaranteed top spot for the 20th time, behind only Barcelona on 21 and level with Manchester United on 20. It means that the team are lined up for what should be a favourable draw for the first knockout round to come in the new year, and also makes the away trip to Union Berlin a dead rubber as far as the travelling side are concerned.
+0.99: Nico Paz’s goal to xG difference
We’ve seen cameos from Nico Paz before, but this was some way for the Argentine midfielder to introduce himself. Introduced for Brahim Díaz with 25 minutes of normal time remaining, this was his most substantial amount of first team game time yet and he made it count by getting on the scoresheet to put Real Madrid back in front and make it 3-2.
His strike from 25 yards registered 0.01 xG on the scale, but was hit with great power and had a fortunate divot up with Alex Meret unable to stop it hitting the back of the net. As his first shot in first team action, it means that his over performance compared to xG sits at 0.99, which isn’t bad going at all.
At totally the other end of the scale, 33-year-old Joselu registered an impressive nine shots. He did score one, a far post tap in deep into injury time, but still underperformed by xG standards by -1.15. With a total of 2.15 xG from his nine shots, six of which were on target,
Joselu recorded 0.24 xG per shot, Paz had 0.01 xG per shot, and the team average actually sat at close to the season average with 0.14. In total, Joselu’s period off the bench saw him record 76% of the team’s total xG on the night, and it’s surely only a matter of time and confidence to get him back firing, even if the Bernabéu didn’t hide their frustrations with him.
79: Seconds between Napoli taking the lead and Rodrygo equalising
It was quite the dramatic start to the game. When Giovanni Simeone, son of Atlético Madrid coach Diego, gave Napoli the lead with a touch from just a yard out after a Giovanni Di Lorenzo cutback found him, it felt like a nightmare start for Real Madrid. With only nine minutes on the clock, they were behind and chasing the game.
But that didn’t last long as there were only 79 seconds between the ball crossing the line, despite Andriy Lunin’s best efforts to claw it away, and Rodrygo Goes wheeling away in celebration at the other end. A smart turn from Brahim Díaz, which will be included in highlight reels for years to come, saw him lay it off to the Brazilian who cut in and smashed the ball into the top corner.
After one goal in 14 games, Rodrygo has well and truly ended his goal drought by scoring in four consecutive matches and taking his tally across the four to six goals. He’s in fine form and you could tell as he came in on the left, usually not his favoured side but following his goal against Cádiz, firing in with a pinpoint finish.
On Wednesday night, he also completed more dribbles than any other player with three, and created a chance for Joselu in the second half. Carlo Ancelotti has most certainly got Rodrygo fit and firing again.