Real Madrid 1-1 Girona: Match Review
Bouncing back from a defeat can be a daunting task, even for the best clubs in the world. Matchday 12 of La Liga saw Real Madrid play against Girona in their first game after suffering a 3-2 defeat to Leipzig, and the spotlight was on the man in white to see if they could come back strong.
Carlo Ancelotti made two changes to the side that defeated Sevilla last weekend. David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger started in central defence, with Daniel Carvajal, and Ferland Mendy deployed to their right and left, respectively.
Luka Modric returned to the starting lineup after missing the game midweek and played in midfield alongside Eduardo Camavinga and Toni Kroos. The lineup was completed by Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo and injury returnee Federico Valverde in the final third.
The first half was a dull affair, with both sides lacking their usual energy. While Girona were happy to sit tight and defend, Los Blancos’ attack often looked blunt and short of inspiration.
Rodrygo had a decent chance in the tenth minute when he shot at goal from distance. While his shot was well placed, Gazzaniga made a phenomenal save to deny the Brazilian.
The visitors threatened to take the lead ten minutes later through a well-organised sequence on the right wing. Arnau Martinez did well to find Valery Fernandez in the box, but the latter’s header went wide.
Real Madrid’s biggest chance of the first half fell to Rodrygo in the 24th minute when his shot on goal painfully hit the woodwork. Yet, the hosts were not the only side who could complain of being denied by the woodwork, for Valery’s goalbound shot rattled Courtois’s crossbar just 14 minutes later.
Los Blancos came out in the second half with more intent but were still well-contained by Girona’s defence. Neither side created any clear chances until the hour mark as the game slowly slipped away from Real Madrid’s hands.
Marco Asensio came on for Eduardo Camavinga in the 61st minute at a stage where the visitors seemed to have the upper hand. Girona enjoyed some glorious chances past the hour mark but could not make the most of them. Thibaut Courtois was forced to make a nervy 1v1 save against Valery during the same period.
Ancelotti’s side finally got their lead in the 70th minute after a bamboozling series of passes in the buildup. The chain of passes terminated with Federico Valverde crossing the ball across the face of the goal for Vinicius Jr to bury it and break the deadlock.
Just a minute later, Asensio’s shot from point-blank range was emphatically saved by Gazzaniga.
Marco Asensio gave the visitors a lifeline in the 78th minute when he gave away a cheap penalty after handling the ball in the Real Madrid area. VAR intervened and awarded Girona the spot-kick, which Christian Stuani converted in style.
Eder Militao and Mariano Diaz came on for Ferland Mendy and Federico Valverde in the 87th minute.
Rodrygo got onto the end of Mariano’s cross in a rapid counter in the penultimate minute, but his goal was ruled out by the referee for a rare reason. The match official insisted that the Brazilian kicked the ball into the goal while Gazzaniga had a hand over the ball, giving Girona a free kick.
Toni Kroos received his marching orders for a rash challenge in the 91st minute that earned him a second yellow card.
Down to ten men, Real Madrid could not salvage an equaliser and dropped points for only the second time this season. While the hosts will feel harshly done by the referee’s decisions on the night, it is now concerning that the team have just one point in their last two games.
Three talking points from Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | La Liga
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid fell to a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona on their first trip to Spotify Camp Nou after more than a year.
The Catalans had not won against the Merengues at home since 2018 ahead of the game but a clutch goal from Franck Kessie helped them turn around the record.
Vinicius Jr opened the scoring early in the game by forcing an error and own goal from Ronald Araujo. The hosts levelled the score in the 45th minute through Sergi Roberto, before the winner arrived in stoppage time.
The game was not without its share of controversy as Real Madrid had a goal disallowed for offside that Ancelotti felt was unfair. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from the fourth Clasico of the season.
1. Quality of full-backs
Real Madrid have etched their names into history as one of the most deadly counter-attacking teams in world football. Their pacey transitions and shifts of play have traditionally progressed through the wing with unreal speed to catch the opponent off-guard even in a momentary lapse in concentration.
Needless to say, the full-backs have always worked in tandem with the team’s wingers to make such speedy counters possible. The glaring problem at Real Madrid currently is that their full-backs do not provide half as much as they need to.
Los Blancos’ counterattack now seemingly consists of only Vinicius Jr on the left wing making a quick transition to find Karim Benzema. With just one outlet, it is difficult for the men in white to be effective.
The story at Spotify Camp Nou was very similar. Dani Carvajal started as the right-back and had a good showing defensively. Yet, he was virtually absent in the final third and left Real Madrid’s right-wing lifeless. In ninety minutes, he managed no crosses or long balls and had just one key pass.
The story at left-back was equally, if not more abysmal. Nacho Fernandez was the candidate deployed in the position and could also not manage a single cross, long ball or key pass on the night. He was eventually substituted for Ferland Mendy but the Frenchman could not do much either.
The difference in the quality of full-backs between Barcelona and Ancelotti’s side is gaping. The Catalans blazed through the wings on the night with Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde who constantly got forward in attack to stretch the men in white. In response, Real Madrid had nothing.
2. A dead right-wing and lack of intensity
It is imperative for any top football team to have the resources to attack both wings, for it is the constant switching of play that triggers errors from the opposition. For a club like Real Madrid to not have such resources is criminal.
The game against Barcelona was completely predictable given that the Merengues’ right wing was nonexistent. Any attack, almost surely, had to come down Vinicius’ wing and this made Barcelona’s defensive work easier.
Dani Carvajal was barely involved in the final third against the Catalans. That, coupled with Federico Valverde’s atrocious showing as the right-winger removed one side of the field from Real Madrid’s game.
Valverde made just 27 passes in 76 minutes and failed to make a single cross on the night. Further, he recorded just one key pass and one accurate long ball in El Clasico.
When Marco Asensio came on for Los Blancos, the equation completely turned around. The winger came on as a direct replacement for Valverde and happened to score the disallowed goal that was millimetres from giving Real Madrid three points.
More importantly, the move for the aforementioned goal was completely down the right flank, a testament to the alarming situation.
3. Goodbye La Liga?
When the clock at Spotify Camp Nou struck 81 minutes, the race for La Liga seemed to be on. Real Madrid had just scored a possible winner and had cut short their deficit with Barcelona to just six points.
Ten minutes later, the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of the hosts. Their lead atop the league standings was suddenly twelve points with just 12 games to go.
History is witness that counting out Real Madrid does not fare well. However, it is difficult to surpass the supposition that the 12-point gap is too wide to bridge.
Los Blancos will continue to fight in the league, but Ancelotti will likely preserve his weapons for the UEFA Champions League where they face a bigger chance at glory.