There are no words to describe Real Madrid’s evening against Girona on Matchday 24 of La Liga. Not many would have expected the game against Michel’s side to be such a critical clash at the beginning of the season, but the game was not close to as tight as was predicted by pundits.
Girona, for all their impressive accomplishments this season, had no response to Los Blancos’ carnage in attack. They dominated the play early on, but the Merengues’ sheer efficiency in front of goal inflicted regular setbacks that the Catalans simply could not recover from.
The 4-0 result at full-time is reflective of the game that ensued on Saturday. Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo Goes and Jude Bellingham were all on the scoresheet, while Joselu would also have joined the list had he not missed a last-minute penalty.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid vs Girona.
Real Madrid’s display at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday was impressive on many fronts, but arguably the most flabbergasting of them all was their defensive show.
Heading into the clash against Girona, the manager had no fit options available in central defence. Antonio Rudiger’s latest injury blow coupled with Nacho Fernandez’s relatively long layoff period left the manager forced to deploy two makeshift centre-backs.
Aurelien Tchouameni and Dani Carvajal thus started as the team’s centre-backs on the night. Inevitably, the first impression was that the duo would serve as the team’s weak link on the field, but their performance oozed class.
Despite being thrown into the deep end, the defensive duo shelled out a flawless performance that can only be described as inspirational. They gave Girona almost no chance to attack, holding their lines with discipline and efficiently clearing the ball when under pressure.
In ninety minutes, Los Blancos allowed Girona just five shots and staggeringly did not allow them a single shot on target. Considering that the Catalans were the league’s highest-scoring side ahead of kickoff, it is an unbelievable achievement for a right-back and defensive midfielder to pull off such a clean sheet.
A generational performance
Real Madrid were impressive all over the park on Saturday. The centre-backs pulled off their duties with impeccable diligence while the midfield was bossed completely by Toni Kroos’ immaculate long balls and Eduardo Camavinga’s vertical runs.
The player who impressed the most, however, was a certain Vinicius Jr. who just returned from a neck injury earlier in the week.
The Brazilian star ran riot on Girona’s right flank at the Bernabeu and single-handedly stole the show. Every time he got on the ball, he threatened to break past the defence and create an opening to the extent that he got their right-back Yan Couto in tears at full-time.
Vinicius opened the scoring on the night in just the fifth minute through an out-of-the-world strike from outside the box. He then provided an outrageous assist for Jude Bellingham’s second, curling the ball over the defence and into the Englishman’s path on goal.
Unsurprisingly, he was the creator-in-chief for the team’s third goal as well, as he skilfully evaded and dribbled past the Catalan defence and put the ball on a platter for Bellingham once more.
All in all, he attempted nine dribbles, completed five, took two shots on target and provided three key passes on the night. Game-changing.
League in the bag?
Real Madrid’s win over Girona is critical for a number of reasons, the most important of which is the league standings and the implications it has on the same.
Saturday’s result takes Los Blancos to the clear lead in La Liga with 61 points ahead just 24 games and puts them in pole position to take home the title. After all, Girona were forced to drop points and now sit a staggering five points behind Real Madrid.
With 14 games to go in La Liga, the title race will be mathematically open for a long time. However, the win over Girona might as well practically seal the title for Carlo Ancelotti’s men considering the imperious form they have been in this season.
The five-point cushion also gives them the breathing space to focus on the UEFA Champions League with more priority. Knowing that the league is almost in the bag is indeed a liberating feeling for the dressing room, and its implications will likely be visible in the team’s upcoming UCL games.
Real Madrid 1-0 Sevilla: Player Ratings
Following Barcelona’s convincing 4-0 win against Getafe yesterday, the onus was on Real Madrid to reinstate the eight-point gap between the sides as they hosted Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu today.
Lucas Vazquez opened the scoring for los blancos after ten minutes, but the goal was controversially disallowed for a foul on Youssef En-Nesyri in the build-up.
Madrid found it difficult to unlock Sevilla’s defence after that, with the first-half ending 0-0 after just one shot on target from both teams combined.
Madrid started the second 45 with more intent, creating some better scoring opportunities, but were left without success until an unbelievable effort from Luka Modric scathed the post and went in.
Sergio Ramos put in a wonderful performance on his return to the Santiago Bernabeu for Sevilla, but it was not enough as Madrid escaped with all three points and an eight-point lead on top of the table.
Andriy Lunin: 8
Was not called into action in the first-half, and was pretty much faultless in possession. But made an incredible save off Romero’s effort in the second half and was extremely proactive collecting crosses, too. Game-changing.
Lucas Vazquez: 7
Did a good job overlapping and was unlucky that his goal was disallowed. Did well to deal with Romero and Ocampos defensively.
Antonio Rudiger: 6.5
Rudiger was lucky that Romero and En-Nesyri did not convert their efforts from close range, as he often left space in behind. Went up to attack with the score at 0-0, too, but came back fruitless.
Was substituted off after 75 minutes after an mostly average display. Again, lucky that he was not punished for the space he left behind.
Ferland Mendy: 7
A few decent moves for Mendy today, but for the most part, his inability to overlap properly gave Vinicius too much to do.
Federico Valverde: 8
By far the most active midfielder today, Valverde was everywhere. Ran the show for Madrid, both in possession and stopping counter attacks before they even started. Missed the easiest chance of the game, though.
Aurelien Tchouameni: 6.5
Did his job as the 6 well, kept the game ticking and kept finding the spare man in midfield. Moved back to the defence eventually, and came away with a clean sheet.
Toni Kroos: 7
With Madrid struggling to break through Sevilla’s defence, Kroos was tasked with a lot of deep progression. Created some tame chances here and there, but failed to find properly find a man through.
Brahim Diaz: 7.5
Kept Kike Salas and Ocampos on their toes, making some tremendous solo runs from deep, but was often left without support. Created a brilliant chance for Valverde, that was scuffed.
Did not take many risks in possesion, but was crucial in Vinicius and Brahim finding space on the wing by offering support.
Vinicius Jr: 7.5
With the Sevilla defence looking very organised, the onus was on Vinicius to create something out of nothing. He attempted a few different things, including flicking the ball over players and attempting shots from distance, but all unsuccessful.
Has to be credited for the effort, though, especially with the rest of the team lacking.
Luka Modric: 8.5
Super-sub Luka Modric coming in clutch for Madrid today with his wonder goal from outside the box. Was also brilliant in possession, increasing the tempo of the game.