Real Madrid: six players under microscope after 'Alcoyanazo'
It was a particularly damaging night for several Real Madrid players as a much-changed side was dumped out of the Copa del Rey by minnows Alcoyano.
Real Madrid have exited the Copa del Rey at the first hurdle after being shocked by third-tier Alcoyano, who weathered the early storm, equalised late on and produced an immense extra-time effort to snatch a 2-1 victory on Wednesday.
In a display of confidence Madrid have hardly justified this season, head coach Zinedine Zidane fielded an XI replete with new faces, picking just two men - Casemiro and Lucas Vázquez - who have been regular starters in 2020/21. Of the rest, some had played rarely or not at all in recent months, and it showed; others tend to be used as impact subs or intermittent starters, and likewise failed to deliver.
It was a defeat that was particularly damaging for several players:
Lunin’s first-team debut for Madrid, which came more than two loan-spell-heavy years on from his arrival at the club, was one to forget. Firstly, because Copa elimination means he’s less likely to see much more game time this term. Thibaut Courtois is the undisputed first choice in LaLiga and the Champions League and, unless the Belgian suffers an injury, the only circumstances under which Lunin can now expect to get minutes are if Madrid win the league with games to spare (an eventuality that doesn’t look all that probable) or, conversely, find themselves adrift of top spot and with nothing left to play for in the final matches of the campaign.
Secondly, because the Ukrainian did not convince one bit. At just under six feet four inches, Lunin is a tall lad - yet he looked tremendously shaky under high balls and did not convey a sense of security to the players in front of him. He failed to clear with a number of dodgy punches and his shot-stopping was almost non-existent, too: Alcoyano scored twice from three attempts, the goalkeeper’s only save coming from a header sent straight down the middle from a corner. He looked less than commanding in the air for the hosts’ leveller and allowed their winner to sneak in at his near post - a spot he simply has to cover.
Real Madrid’s captain for the night, Marcelo offered an improvement on his previous performances, but he remains something of a negative common denominator for Los Blancos this term: of the eight games he has started, they have lost five and won just two. It would be unfair on the Brazilian to say either of Alcoyano’s goals were directly down to him, as has been the case on other occasions, but he seemed to run out of steam in the second half, his influence waning even further in extra time. He also lost possession prolifically: 32 times in total.
The left-back came away from Wednesday’s game with an assist for Éder Militao, but also at the centre of an image that has provoked some controversy: the laugh and a joke he could be seen sharing with Isco before the start of extra time, seemingly unperturbed by a highly risky situation that ended in catastrophe. What’s more, he failed to front up for the media after the game, despite wearing the captain’s armband in the shock loss. Only Zidane faced the cameras.
The other player spotted chuckling away before extra time, Isco was in the thick of the action in the opening stages of the match but quickly faded away. A couple of months ago, the midfielder complained that Zidane rarely starts him, takes him off early if he does and brings him on late if he’s a substitute… but he failed to stake his claim for more game time on an evening that was a chance to do so. Although he worked hard, winning the ball back 12 times, his passing was well off: he completed just 78 out of 96, and lost possession 29 times. He brought little penetration or creativity to the side.
Not so long ago, Vinicius began his Real Madrid career playing at Segunda División B grounds with Castilla, the club’s ‘B’ team, so the Brazilian can hardly claim he’s not used to playing in such surroundings. Once again, the 20-year-old spurned an opportunity to persuade Zidane to give him a more regular starting spot. He was substituted before extra time having managed just one shot on target, in a one-on-one chance that could have doubled Madrid’s lead and left the tie all but won. It was another reminder of how much room for improvement there is in his finishing - and to top things off, Alcoyano went up the other end and equalised.
Mariano was the first man to be substituted by Zidane, the Madrid boss hauling the striker off for Karim Benzema midway through the second half, after a thoroughly impatient display in which he got one yellow card, flirted seriously with a second, completed just eight passes and managed a left-footed shot from range that was gathered by goalkeeper José Juan.
Díaz failed to understand that it was a night all about rolling his sleeves up and waiting for his opportunity; instead, in his eagerness to impress after seeing his path towards the team partially cleared by Luka Jovic’s departure, he grew far too hot under the collar at the lack of scoring chances coming his way.
It’s not as if Benzema fared any better than Díaz when he came on, it must also be said: the Frenchman didn’t get a single shot away in 50 minutes on the field.
Hazard doesn’t work as an impact sub, either. The Belgian continues to underwhelm as a Real Madrid player. He had been expected to start on Wednesday to aid his return to full match-sharpness, but Zidane opted to hold him back, before throwing him on in extra time in a bid to galvanise the side.
However, other than the opening moments of his time on the field, in which he set up a shooting chance for Asensio with a neat one-two, he was anonymous. Unable to test the goalkeeper even once, he also gave possession away four times in his 22-minute appearance. Disappointing from Hazard - yet again.