Real Madrid made it 15 consecutive games against Real Valladolid unbeaten with a magnificent 6-0 thrashing of Real Valladolid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu on Sunday afternoon.
The win featured an early strike from Rodrygo Goes, followed by a hat-trick from Karim Benzema, a second-half goal from Marco Asensio and an injury-time strike from Lucas Váquez. Carlo Ancelotti’s offensive line-up, featuring four forwards in a 4-2-3-1 shape, was rewarded with a goal fest that pleased the baying fans in the stands.
Here are three stats that help to explain the game on Sunday afternoon.
6 minutes, 30 seconds: For Karim Benzema to complete a hat-trick
Karim Benzema sealed his first ever first-half hat-trick for Real Madrid in fantastic style, with the most eye-catching of all being an acrobatic overhead kick for his third goal which saw him convert Rodrygo Goes’ cutback from the byline.
With six minutes and 30 seconds between his first and his third goal, Benzema became the third-fastest scorer of a hat-trick in LaLiga for Real Madrid in history, following Fernando Hierro’s 1992 effort against Espanyol and Pahiño’s treble against Nástic which took just four minutes in 1950.
It was also the first first-half hat-trick to be completed by a Real Madrid player in the competition since Cristiano Ronaldo in 2015 against Espanyol. Benzema joined CR7, Ruud Van Nistelrooy (2006, against Osasuna) and Iván Zamorano (1995, against Barcelona) in achieving the feat.
In doing so, Benzema also scored in back-to-back fixtures for Real Madrid for the first time since the 5-2 win over Liverpool at Anfield in February. It comes almost a year to the day since his last hat-trick, in the 3-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on April 6th, 2022.
These goals were primarily poacher’s finishes, with two coming in at 0.77 and 0.9 xG respectively, but reflected a side to Benzema’s game which we haven’t seen as much of in recent weeks. His ability to break between the lines and find spaces in the box was a differential part of his game in 2021/22 and it could provide a real boost should it return for the closing stages of 2022/23.
It’s also worth remembering that even in this season, in which Benzema has had substantial criticism and repeated injury problems, these were his 20th, 21st and 22nd goals for Real Madrid in 30 appearances. That’s as many or more goals than in five full seasons since he moved to the Bernabéu.
16: LaLiga games without a goal before Rodrygo Goes converted
Given a chance against Real Valladolid, Rodrygo Goes will have felt that he had a point to prove given the upcoming Clásico and the fact that his minutes in recent weeks have been limited to say the least.
The Brazilian came into this match without a LaLiga goal since the Clásico 3-1 win against Barcelona in October. He has since scored five, in the Copa del Rey, Champions League and Club World Cup, but had not converted a single goal in LaLiga for 168 days.
Since then, no player had underscored their xG by more than Rodrygo. With 5.71 of xG without finding the net, his form was truly worry. It gave meaning to Ancelotti’s reluctance to start him, particularly in big games, on the right flank or Real Madrid’s attack.
Against Valladolid, there was no sign of such nerves. With a shot which came in at 0.11 on the expected goals rankings, Rodrygo showed great composure to bury the ball into the bottom corner and give Real Madrid the lead.
For a brief moment, 12 minutes into this game, Real Valladolid were on top. Roque Mesa hit the woodwork and the visitors were leading on xG by 0.25 to 0.08. While the end result was a walk in the park for Real Madrid, the importance of Rodrigo’s goal in opening the can of worms that was a rout cannot be underestimated.
28: Minutes for Eden Hazard, his first in LaLiga since September
It has been 203 days, over six months, since Eden Hazard last donned a Real Madrid shirt in LaLiga. His 28 minutes account for 8.6% of his total minutes this season and he also contributed his first goal involvement since the win over Celtic in September as he assisted Lucas Vázquez’s injury time strike.
Hazard played as the number nine and his most notable involvement beyond the assist was to fire a chance over the bar after a Marco Asensio rebound fell his way. The ball fell just behind him, catching him off guard with a slow reaction which is almost expected of a player with such little game time in recent months, but chance did register 0.26 xG and was his only shot of the game.
It was a curious choice given that Álvaro Rodríguez, the teenager who has excelled off the bench, was not selected. It’s true that Álvaro featured for Raúl’s Castilla and scored the winner against San Sebastián de los Reyes less than 24 hours beforehand, but Ancelotti continues to seem reluctant to give him significant game time.
The decision to prioritise Hazard, whose future clearly looks to be elsewhere, over a promising youngster, is one which is unlikely to go down well with some elements of the Spanish press who already have enough reasons to be far from fans of Hazard.
Another change with a similar length of absence coming to an end was that which saw David Alaba replaced by Jesús Vallejo. He has played just 67 minutes in all competitions, and none in LaLiga, since his last start of 2021/22, on May 15th against Cádiz in LaLiga.
Equally, Álvaro Odriozola had played 83 minutes this season, with his 22 minutes in LaLiga coming against Elche in February, before he replaced Rodrygo Goes in the closing stages.
It seems that Carlo Ancelotti is looking to rotate his squad with big fixtures on the horizon, with Barcelona in the Copa del Rey only days away and Chelsea in the Champions League only just over a week away. With a 12-point gap in LaLiga, it’s understandable.