real Madrid 3-1 Athletic Club (Kroos, Benzema x2; Capa). Here is our quick reaction. Still to come: player ratings, post-match podcasts, post-match citations, and many more analysis.
If it has ever been easy to spot a turning point, a single juncture in which the game rotates in a different direction, then today it was Raul Garcia who challenged Toni Kroos in the 13th minute, receiving his second yellow card from a second foul. on Kroos a few minutes earlier.
Before Garcia’s red card (notably his first in over eight years), Athletic was pressing angrily. Zidane’s men, despite all their ingenuity (Mendy and Carvajal squeezing into a squeeze, Vazquez, Vinicius, Fede falling deep), could not escape him. Once Garcia was sent off, Athletic responded, blocking a low 4-4-1 with Iñaki the only man in front of the ball.
As difficult as it was for Real Madrid to conjure up high-quality possibilities in a loud clip against low blocks, in this game it was better to take a hammer and nails against this athletic team than to face their pressing (which would probably eventually be vanished as the game progressed). And Athletic was giving up. Real Madrid had nearly 75% possession in the first half and Athletic left more and more white shirts open in the penalty area as time progressed.
Toni Kroos opened the scoring just before half-time:
In the second half, Athletic tried to crawl out of their half more and had a couple of good possession periods. They found the draw thanks to Ander Capa, who was a step faster than Sergio Ramos:
But Real Madrid still seemed comfortable dealing with that setback. Their offensive movement was good. Mendy, Vazquez and Carvajal were all making good defensive efforts (although the first two had bad moments on the ball), and Raphael Varane had Iñaki Williams in his pocket.
Dani Carvajal, from a free kick, found Karim Benzema for the winner in the 74th minute:
Benzema also scored his second place just before the final whistle, moving up to 3 to 1. The whole transition sequence was fantastic, which essentially started with a Thibaut Courtois save on the other side, where Real Madrid are left with an advantage in the left half. -space.
There is a lot to break down here beyond this reaction, including tactical wrinkles, substitutions, controversial referee decisions, and so much more. Stay tuned.