Alaves 1 – 2 Real Madrid (Perez; Ramos, Carvajal). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.
Everything about this away game, a 1pm kick-off at Mendizorroza in Basque Country, was difficult. In the pouring rain, on a slick surface, Real Madrid faced an organized team in Alaves — a team that has the best defensive record at home, where, until today, they’d conceded just two goals all season.
Today their defense held up well too. Asier Garitano had Alaves in organized banks of four. They took away space from nearly everyone, and even when Real Madrid had good movement off the ball and found space, Alaves tracked them well and picked off the arriving pass. On rare moments where Real Madrid found an open channel, they couldn’t take advantage. Isco, one of the most active instigators all game, had two of his passes picked off to an open Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale respectively in the first half, and got himself into decent goal-scoring position at the top of the box twice, but couldn’t finish.
It was clear that this game was only going to open up through something less than sexy — maybe a set-piece, a scramble in the box, or deflected goal.
And both of Real Madrid’s goals came through such avenues, and, despite it being ugly, there was a certain epicness to it, with players leaping in the air through the rain, and getting the job done in a grind-it-out victory — the type that requires character to win domestic championships:
That was Real Madrid’s opening goal, where Ramos looked like he was out-jumping five-year-old kids. On Real Madrid’s winning goal, it was Isco — all 1.76 meters of him — flying through at the far post to meet a Modric cross and hitting the post. Dani Carvajal scored from the ensuing scramble.
In between the two goals, Alaves continued to make like difficult for Real Madrid. In the 66th minute, substitute Oliver Burke dribbled past Casemiro down the flank, and put in a dangerous low cross that was cleared. But as Ramos went to win the ball in the air, he elbowed Joselu, and conceded a penalty which Lucas Perez scored from.
Alaves then made life uncomfortable for Zidane’s men late on a couple corner kick scrambles.
There are a lot of interesting things to break down on tonight’s post-game podcast, which will take us into more detail, but the bottom line is Real Madrid came away with a huge three points, and they’ve put together a string of games now where they’ve come away with wins — and winning games you’re supposed to has not been a consistent theme for Real Madrid in years’ past.