Real Madrid ratings as Asensio scores on return in Valencia win
Marco Asensio grabbed the headlines, scoring 29 seconds into his comeback from injury as Real Madrid beat Valencia 3-0 in LaLiga on Thursday.
Courtois’ first-half display was a mixed bag: the goalkeeper looked nervous with ball at feet, serving up more than one dodgy clearance, but also came to Real Madrid’s rescue by getting the finest of touches to a Rodrigo Moreno shot that bounced off the post, and then beating out a powerful Geoffrey Kondogbia shot. He was rather less busy in the second 45.
Carvajal had one of Madrid’s best opportunities in the first half, driving into the box and forcing a smart stop from Valencia goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen. It is clear that the right-back’s half-time withdrawal against Eibar was no more than a precaution, because he looked in excellent physical nick, not least when he threw himself in front of a Ferran Torres shot when the Valencia winger was well placed to score.
It was Varane’s loose defending, in collaboration with Carvajal, that almost saw Rodrigo give Valencia a first-half lead, but Courtois and the woodwork got Madrid out of jail. Other than that moment, the Frenchman had a good game, showing aerial prowess and bringing the ball out well from the back.
Ramos was guilty of the odd moment of over-confident sloppiness when bringing the ball out, but made up for it by generally keeping Maxi Gómez in check. He also launched several Madrid attacks, joining in on occasion. It was for a foul on Ramos that Valencia substitute Kang-In Lee was harshly sent off.
Chosen ahead of Marcelo on a big night, Mendy was much as you’d expect: rock-solid defensively, but unimaginative going forward. Depending on which he was facing at any given moment, he kept Carlos Soler and Torres under control, and in the second half popped up more in attack. Indeed, Marco Asensio’s goal came from his cross.
Brought into the midfield, he spent the first half playing wide towards the right, a state of affairs that curbed his capacity to get involved in the game and bring his physical prowess to bear on proceedings. After the break, he played more centrally and improved considerably, getting one shot away from mid-range. The Uruguayan was brought off for Asensio with a quarter of an hour remaining.
In the first half, Kroos was short on inspiration and was unable to bring the kind of tempo to the game that Real Madrid needed. Much like the rest of the team, the German was much better after the break, and, but for a good Cillessen save, might have scored the hosts’ third with a free-kick.
The Real Madrid midfield’s best performer, albeit he committed four of Los Blancos’ seven first-half fouls and might have seen yellow for a robust tackle on Kondogbia - a booking that would have ruled him out of Madrid’s next game, away to Real Sociedad. In the second half, he snuffed out a potentially dangerous attacking moment for Gonçalo Guedes, which could have seen Valencia make it 2-1; moments later, Benzema scored his second.
Modric sought as best he could to get Real Madrid going in attack whenever they got the chance to stretch their legs in the first half, which wasn’t often. The Croat was far more influential in the second half, getting close to the Valencia danger area and looking to thread balls through the visiting backline.
In the first half, he wasn’t involved too often and didn’t get any shots away. More than once, he drifted to the left and sent in crosses that he himself should have been getting on the end of. All that changed after half time, though, as the Frenchman bagged a brace with a deft finish into the corner and a superb control-and-volley high into the net. That’s the Benzema that Madrid need.
Hazard was the most active of Real Madrid’s forwards in the first period, shooting three times - most notably when Cillessen denied the Belgian in a one-on-one chance. In the second half, he made up for an effort that was high, wide and handsome by playing in Benzema for the opener. At the moment, he seems to be better at setting others up than scoring himself. His dribbling is getting better and better; he set off on a number of diagonal runs that saw him beat defenders with ease. The Hazard of old isn’t here yet, but he’s getting closer.
Nearly a year after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Asensio enjoyed a fairytale comeback, scoring 29 seconds after being brought on as a substitute when he volleyed Mendy’s cross past Cillessen. And to top things off, he also assisted Benzema for Real Madrid’s third.
Introduced in place of Hazard with just under 10 minutes remaining, Vinicius might have scored after bursting past Valencia defender Hugo Guillamón, but opted to pass. The Brazilian looked rapid.