Javier Aguirre has built a compact, organised Real Mallorca side that are a tough nut to crack. They’re one of those teams that give the impression they’re greater than the sum of their parts. Los Bermellones arrived in the capital having impressed in their previous games this term, and made life much harder for the hosts than the final scoreline might suggest. In the end, it was a game that came down to the persistence shown by Madrid, who got the win thanks to moments of immense quality from the youngsters Fede Valverde, Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo Goes. The latter began on the wing, but really came to the fore when he moved into the area normally occupied by Karim Benzema. That shift came after Eden Hazard, who was given his first start in a long while, was taken off.
Valverde’s exquisite equaliser changes complexion of game
Before then, though, Valverde had brought the house down with a truly stunning strike. With half time approaching, Madrid were trailing to a headed opener by Mallorca’s tall striker Vedat Muriqi - and were struggling. It was then, however, that the Uruguayan collected a pass from Dani Ceballos not far from his own box, set off towards goal like an express train, carried the ball forward some 80 yards, and thrashed a venomous shot high into the corner. The first goal you score is worth three, Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stéfano used to say. This one certainly changed the mood inside the Bernabéu, where the Madrid fans had watched on with concern as the home team began to find themselves on something of a sticky wicket. It’s a strike that will take pride of place in the Valverde scrapbook.
Rodrygo carves it up in central role
Despite the transformative effect of the equaliser, it was Mallorca who were close to scoring soon after the break, and Carlo Ancelotti threw on Luka Modric in place of Hazard to dictate the rhythm of the play, with Rodrygo switching to centre-forward. Vinícius had hitherto cut a rather isolated figure, tying himself in knots without a partner to lean on, but in no time at all Rodrygo produced a fine run to set his compatriot up for a lovely goal. Later, Rodrygo conjured up a third all by himself, slicing his way through the Mallorca defence like a hot knife through butter. There was even time for a fourth, scored by Antonio Rüdiger, but it was the bursts of inspiration from the young guns that secured the points for Los Blancos. Madrid boast a fine team in the here and now, but it’s one that also has a very bright future.