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Immediate Reaction: Union Berlin 2 - 3 Real Madrid

Union Berlin v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Photo by David S.Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Union Berlin 2 - 3 Real Madrid (Volland, Kral; Joselu x 2, Ceballos). Here’s our quick reaction at the final whistle. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, post-game quotes, stats breakdown, and more.


All eyes were on Carlo Ancelotti before tonight’s clash against Union Berlin. Would he rotate? Would he give key starters some rest? Union Berlin were fighting for their lives, trying to win in order to get into the Europa League. Real Madrid, meanwhile, were guaranteed first place regardless — though did have 2.5m at stake which they can claim for each Champions League group stage victory.

The only sure thing was Kepa starting — something that Ancelotti confirmed in yesterday’s pre-game presser.

There were some rotations: Antonio Rudiger, Ferland Mendy, and Toni Kroos all started on the bench. But that’s about as far as Ancelotti went as he looked to finish the group stage strong — and that he did.

The game had a similar pattern throughout that was repeated. Union Berlin — apart from an aggressive press to start the game — fell into a mid-block. Real Madrid circulated possession with crisp, controlled passing, and their fluid movement allowed them to pick the German’s apart and get into good positions. Fran Garcia and Lucas Vazquez made good overloads and put in good passes into the box.

But three unfortunate events saw Real Madrid go behind one goal at half-time: 1) Joselu missed a really good chance in the box where he should have squared it to Rodrygo for a tap-in; Luka Modic missed a penalty; and Union Berlin scored just before half-time through a David Alaba mis-kick.

The sequence sparked some discussion on whether or not Real Madrid should switch their designated penalty taker, and further expounded some of the mistakes that Alaba has been making this season.

The only change at half-time was Toni Kroos who came in for Fede Valverde. The German helped Real Madrid continue their tempo from the first half, where Ancelotti’s men controlled possession and tried to get into good zones in the final third.

Finally, Rodrygo Goes — who had a quiet game relative to what he’s been doing the past few games — put a ball into Joselu for the equalizer:

11 minutes later, Joselu popped up for his second. Luka Modric progresses the ball, and Fran Garcia dishes the assist:

Union Berlin kept pushing, even if their chances were very sporadic on the counter-attack. Alex Kral, off the bench, equalized after being Real Madrid failed to close him down on a scramble outside the box; but then Dani Ceballos, with his first goal since winter of last season, scored the game-winner and ended all hope for Union Berlin:

This was the bare bones. We’ll break this down in much more detail in the coming hours in both written and podcast form. Sid and I will record the post-game podcast tonight for Members.

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