Al Ahly 1 - 4 Real Madrid (Maâloul; Vinicius, Valverde, Rodrygo, Arribas). Here’s our quick reaction at the final whistle. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game quotes, post-game podcast, stats breakdown, and a ton more.
In a tight and gruelling affair against the team at the top of the Egyptian Premier League, Real Madrid ground out a win over Al Ahly to advance to the Club World Cup final.
After Fede Valverde’s pre-game press conference yesterday where he stated his favourite position is as a right-sided forward, Carlo Ancelotti granted him his wish, sliding him up front in a 4-3-3 with Rodrygo in the middle, and Vinicius Jr out wide on the left. Eduardo Camavinga continued his run as the team’s starting left-back with Ferland Mendy, Dani Carvajal, and Eder Militao out; and Aurelien Tchouameni slid in as the pivot behind Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
On a tactical level, the game started somewhat as expected, even if Al Ahly head coach Marcel Koller promised to have an expansive blueprint that attacked. He did garner quite a few chances by the end of it, but Al Ahly’s first chance on the counter-attack didn’t arrive until the 19th minute — up until that point, it was mostly Real Madrid circulating possession, counter-pressing, and getting good coverage on the high line from the backline. Antonio Rudiger and Nacho in particular had several great defensive reads throughout this game.
The breakthrough eventually came in the 42nd minute from an Al Ahly giveaway and a gorgeous finish from Vinicius:
THE BRILLIANT BRAZILIAN— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 8, 2023
Vinícius Júnior fires @realmadriden in front 1-0! pic.twitter.com/phaDSxa63F
Real Madrid doubled the lead shortly after half-time. Luka Modric’s brilliant pass to Rodrygo unlocked a great chance, and Fede Valverde converted a rebound from Rodrygo’s shot:
Fede Valverde teaching a valuable lesson on always being first to the ball and never giving up on a play! pic.twitter.com/4ykXuUQSbu— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 8, 2023
But Al Ahly, slowly gaining momentum with their transition attack, were given a life line. Hussein El Shahat, the right winger who was proving to be dangerous getting in-behind Camavinga, was fouled by the Frenchman in the box, and Andriy Lunin couldn’t stop Ali Maâloul’s penalty.
Real Madrid eventually iced the game with two brilliant goals from Rodrygo and Sergio Arribas respectively. Dani Ceballos’s introduction in the second half was also key, as you can clearly see in the Rodrygo goal below:
Dani Ceballos knew exactly where Rodrygo was— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 8, 2023
AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 8, 2023
Sergio Arribas slots it home with a left footed shot from the center of the box to the bottom right corner! pic.twitter.com/gnYtnZcUTU
Along the way, there were plenty of bizarre things that happened, including confusion referee decisions and even a missed Luka Modric penalty. We’ll break this down in much more details on the site in the coming hours. Join us live on Zoom for the post-game podcast tonight (where I might be too hyped for Arribas.)