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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 3-2 AC Milan

Quick recap from Madrid’s pre-season opener

Real Madrid v AC Milan - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Karim Benzema’s farewell happened mere weeks ago but it felt like a lifetime ago when the commentator reminded us about him as the teams lined up for the first pre-season game of the summer. The break is over. Real Madrid is back playing football, they started with new names on the pitch in the brand new away kit for 2023-24 at the Rose Bowl.

Unsurprisingly, Carlo Ancelotti started in a 4-4-2 diamond shape with Jude Bellingham playing behind Joselu and Brahim Diaz. Eduardo Camavinga and Fede Valverde were the ‘8s’ ahead of the lone defensive midfielder in Toni Kroos.

Milan started the game with a high and aggressive press. Real Madrid showed early sign of urgency too with Joselu and Brahim both pressing high. Jude Bellingham had a fantastic opening 45 minutes into his Real Madrid career. His quick feet in tight spaces and one-touch interchanges with Eduardo Camavinga and Fede Valverde were a treat to watch. Camavinga had a fine half himself with breezing past Milan bodies at will at times and unleashing the famous ‘cobra tackle’ a couple of times too, in defense.

Madrid’s initial plan was to stretch the pitch on the right with Lucas Vazquez playing as a very wide right back. Brahim and Fede were operating inside to create the space for him to whip in crosses. Madrid were able to create this pattern multiple times with cutbacks and crosses into the box but none of those resulted in a goal. Madrid’s pressing in the mid-block was narrow and compact with Kroos, Fede and Jude staying very close to each other in the build-up. The defensive work from Toni Kroos had been great on both flanks.

Milan on the other hand was relying a lot on Christian Pulisic to infiltrate Madrid’s box from the left. He has been successful with this idea a few times. Milan scored against the run of play from Pulisic’s corner and Tomori’s well guided header that smashed into the net. Milan doubled their lead through substitute Luka Romero who took the chance of a poor defensive clearance from Madrid and hit the top corner from long distance. The first half ended at 2-0 in Milan’s favor.

The second half was more fun from Real Madrid’s perspective. Ancelotti made eight changes with Carvajal, Rudiger, Alaba, Fran Garcia, Tchouameni, Modric, Vinicius and Rodrygo entering the game.

However, it was Fede Valverde who brought Real Madrid back into the game with a quick brace - the first one, a long range effort spilled by the goalkeeper and the second one, an opportunistic strike drilled home.

Rodrygo looked more agile than ever, maintaining this burst of pace while dribbling on the right - an aspect which he lacked previously. Vinicius took some time to get going but he eventually did. The new number seven put Real Madrid ahead from the aftermath of a delightful Luka Modric pass from the deep. Fran Garcia also impressed in his Real Madrid return. The game ended at Real Madrid 3-2 AC Milan.

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