Real Madrid player ratings vs Celta: Hazard and Bale contrast
The game finished with two dropped points for Zinedine Zidane at home to the relegation-threatened side, and there were mixed performances from the stars.
After visiting Celta Vigo caused a stir in the Santiago Bernabéu on Sunday evening by taking a first-half lead, things had appeared to return to form with a Toni Kroos strike and a Sergio Ramos penalty. Santi Mina's neat finish late in the game, however, meant a share of the spoils. Here's how we saw the performances of Zinedine Zidane's men.
Real Madrid player ratings
Little fault can be attributed to the Belgian keeper in the opening goal from Smolov, who calmly slotted home the through ball from Aspas. He saved Madrid with a fine stop from an Aidoo header in the first half, one that would have put the visitors two up. Mina's winner was also struck so well, and it came unexpectedly, that it's hard to criticise him for it.
As we are now very used to, he was a constant presence down the right wing, overlapping Bale and providing crosses. His delivery wasn't as dangerous as usual, and his Welsh forward did little to link with him effectively to make things happen. Mina got away from him for the winning goal and he'll be disappointed not to have got in front of him before the strike.
A serious error of judgement for Smolov's opener, hesitating and then misreading. The French defender struggled to contain Moaña and the Russian when the attacks came, although across the match he generally had a sense of control. He gave a good platform for attacks to build, especially in the second half but then he arguably was in a position to prevent Celta's second had he read Denis Suárez' pass earlier.
Like his defensive teammates, although to a lesser degree, the opener caught him out of position, leaving too much space for the killer ball to be played into space. In the second half he scored two goals, after being pushed further up to join attacks, with the first correctly ruled out for a marginal offside. His penalty was despatched with aplomb, and then he went over looking to be handed another but his claims were waved away.
Many were surprised to see him start ahead of Mendy, with the Frenchman a booking away from El Clásico and two games in between. He took less blame than others for Celta's goals and put in an inproved performance from those of late, combining well with Hazard and Benzema as he added an extra attacking dimension. It was the Brazilian who cut the ball back for Kroos to make it 1-1, and Zidane may have a harder decision to make in the key games ahead for his left-back spot.
The Uruguayan was relatively quiet in attack, not able to break through as he has been for much of the season. A five-man Celta defence being a significant factor in this. As a covering defender himself, he was his usual intense self, able to kill off many a threat through pressure.
Very safe with possession but far from his very best. He had a nice strike from distance in the first half, which went just over Blanco's crossbar and worked with Valverde and others to cancel out most advances from the Galicians.
The pick of the midfielders, he held onto the ball securely, and was able to develop attacks by bringing others into play with regularity, switching from one flank to the other to keep Celta on their toes. His excellently taken goal, wiht his left, put the gloss on his performance, while he showed a commitment to defend when called upon. When replaced by Modric, the Bernabéu cheered him off.
It hurt somewhat to see the Welshman on the pitch in this game. He was extremely poor in the first half, providing his teammates with no overlapping runs and rarely, if at all, hinting to the Celta defenders that danger was coming. His attitude was also under scrutiny, with a sense that there was no real desire to make something happen, often oblivious to what was happening around him. It seemed to get worse with every ball that came to him and, even when there was a glimmer of intensity being sparked - for example, a powerful striker from distance - it didn't. In the second half he was much improved, pressing much harder when the opposition was in possession and looking to link up with Benzema with more enthusiasm. That said, we again saw very little from a man with more questions than answers surrounding him, and his biggest act of the day was arguably an ugly tackle from behind on Rafinha. Mendy replaced him in the 84th minute and there was a mixed send-off from the Bernabéu crowd.
The Frenchman didn't carry too much of a threat across the 90 minutes, although still showed good chemistry with Hazard on the left-hand side. It was his pass that led to the penalty being given on his Belgian teammate, that allowed Ramos to put Los Blancos in front, but the centre forward will know that he must contribute more in attack. His best two chances fell either side of the break: one where his close control let him down and the other a clean enough strike that was straight at Blanco and pushed away. The Pichichi is not coming close to Madrid if he continues like tonight, although credit must go to the opposition defence.
Having not played since being injured against PSG on 26 November he was still clearly the most effective of the three attacking players on the night. He may have not been expected to start but that allowed Zidane to manage how long he would play and gave him a chance to acclimatise to the game as others did, rather than picking up the pace later in the proceedings. The Belgian had a rhythm to his play, overlapping or feeding the overlapper (often Marcelo) on various occasion, and had a few opportunities to cut inside from the left to open up space for others. The crowded final third organised by Celta made everything that little bit harder but there were plenty of signs that a fit Hazard will do damage. That match sharpness should arrive in time for Man City and Barcelona clashes, and is something Zidane will need. It was also the winger who encouraged Blanco to foul him, taking full advantage of his rash attempt to beat him to the ball. The Bernabéu gave him a great ovation when he departed on the 74th minute for Vinicius.
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