AS journalist Javier Sillés offers a stark assessment of Real Madrid's performance in victory over Real Valladolid on Saturday.
A combination of Vinicius' chutzpah and a huge stroke of luck got Real Madrid through an afternoon that had looked set to go the same way as their catalogue of recent flops. The result, a 2-0 win that is Madrid's first in LaLiga in a month and a half, boosts caretaker coach Santi Solari's hopes of being given the job on a longer-term basis, and leaves Los Blancos feeling a fair bit better about themselves.
Real Madrid may have beaten Valladolid, but...
But make no mistake: a sober analysis of how Saturday's game unfolded at the Bernabéu does not paint a positive picture. Once more, Madrid's play lacked substance, with only the forward incursions of full-backs Álvaro Odriozola and Sergio Reguilón providing any particular spark. The European champions lacked leadership and struggled to control the game's tempo against a Real Valladolid side who, just as they have been all season, were excellent.
For large periods of the match, Sergio González's men played their own game with a noticeable degree of comfort, bringing the ball out with freedom and confidence and transitioning dangerously from defence to attack. For the last 15 minutes of the first half and the first 15 of the second, Los Pucelanos enjoyed the lion's share of the possession (55.7%) and frequently got themselves into positions in and around the penalty area governed by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, whose crossbar came to his rescue throughout the encounter.
Saturday's clash underlines there is plenty to put right
Solari still has plenty of work to do to fix Madrid's tendency to leave spaces between the lines without the ball, and their lack of invention with it. As is his preference, the Argentine focused much of his side's play down the wings, with 64% of their attacks taking place out wide. On the left, Reguilón stood out for the hosts, delivering a number of fine balls into the box (nine in total) and, with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric well short of top form in midfield, this was where Madrid achieved their greatest attacking fluidity.
When out of possession, Madrid did not deal well with Valladolid's creative play, allowing the visitors to pick out easy passes and stride forward both centrally and on the wings. Neither with Casemiro at anchorman, nor after withdrawing the Brazilian and switching to a 4-2-3-1, were Los Merengues able to stem the black and purple tide. The result should not hide the error-strewn nature of Madrid's display, nor the excellence of Valladolid's. Solari has got his work cut out.