Real Madrid won against Granada 1-0 at home, thanks to a Benzema goal and no thanks to several Ronaldo mishit shots.
Anyway, before we move onto the Ronaldo’s and Isco’s, let’s talk about the defense of Real Madrid.
Now Remember, Granada is not the best attacking side in La Liga. Hell, it is not even the best attacking side anywhere on the planet.
So how did Real Madrid defense deal with the likes of Al-Aarabi and S.Isaac? I bet you hadn’t heard these names in the list of top scorers anywhere in the world of football. But here they were, giving trouble to the mighty Real Madrid.
Real Madrid’s defense looked all over the place (relatively speaking) and I kid you not that if Suarez or Neymar (Suarez and Neymar because Real Madrid are due to play Barcelona at the very least two times this season) had the chances Granada had, it would have been something like 1-4 to Granada..
Real Madrid’s defense was stripped one too many times but it just wasn’t Granada’s day.
Anyway, let’s move to the specifics.
Truth be told, Real Madrid would have lost this game without Keylor Navas. I don’t even know what would have happened if Casillas was in there.
Credit to Navas, he has been a real professional and despite the fact that the club wanted to sell him till the last day of the transfer market period, he gives his all every time he steps onto the pitch.
That to me shows what a gentleman Navas is. Hasn’t lost motivation and neither the desire to succeed at a club which wanted to sell it.
There is no denying the fact that many people (including me) wanted Real Madrid to strike a deal with Manchester United that would somehow get Real Madrid De Gea and get Manchester United Keylor Navas. Deal didn’t happen, the rest is just history.
Navas was tested throughout the game against Granada which was a surprise since Real Madrid beat Granada 9-1 in their last meeting. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise since Granada got itself a new coach and he upgraded the team by a notch or two and Granada managed to stay in La Liga despite all the odds.
Navas saved a low shot midway the first half and from that moment on, it was clear that Granada players didn’t come to Bernabeu to lay down and die. They were here to fight.
Al-Arabi who ran rings around Real Madrid defenders most of the game, went past three challenges inside the box and was basically through on goal.
Out came Navas and jumped on Al-Arabi’s feet to stop him in his tracks before he could take a solid shot. Had Granada scored there and then, it would have been a miserable night for Real Madrid as then Granada would have just sat back with their lead and frustrated a misfiring Real Madrid’s forward line.
The way Navas closed down a massive area of space in front of Al-Arabi was just magisterial. It was a ‘what a save’ moment.
Whether Navas stays at Real Madrid or leaves, one thing is for sure and that is, Navas is going onwards and upwards to becoming world class. Clubs would line up for his signature come the end of the seasons if he keeps his form up because Navas is playing like a jack rabbit at the moment.
In the second half, Navas made a similar astonishing save by denying Al-Arabi again.
Carvajal gave a reasonable performance. His headers were on the spot tonight and didn’t let anyone outmuscle him for air balls. How he does that with such a short stature is anyone’s guess. Hard work that is.
Whether Carvajal performs well in his defensive duties is always a toss up but what he always does well is attack.
His attacking game keeps on getting better and better with each passing season. Carvajal played some nice lobbed balls to Benzema (on one occasion Benzema took a dive instead of trying hard to get a header onto a good Carbajal cross.).
Carvajal also showed good pace and strength against Granada when he knocked off an attacker off the ball close to the corner lines near Real Madrid’s goal.
What always impresses me about Carvajal as a right back is the ease with which he gets past his first marker. Whenever an attacker tries to work him for space, he always gets past him with one or two touches. Most of the time, he gets through them as if they weren’t even there.
Apart from that, his shot blocking ability was also on display against Granada.
Could be faulted for getting beat too easy by Al-Arabi inside the penalty area but apart from that he was a constant source of trouble in the opponent’s half.
With Sergio Ramos out for sometime, Pepe got a startup call from Benitez.
Pepe had a quiet game by his standards against Granada. Which isn’t to say that he operated poorly.
Pepe did show some great power play on the wings and in the middle whenever a Granada raider got close to him with the ball.
His only mistake of the game could have cost Real Madrid two points when he fouled Granada aggressor just on the edge of the area after failing to control and clear a simply ball in the 88th minute of the game.
The resulting free kick was rotten, otherwise it could have been curtains for Real Madrid.
Varane has made himself amongst the top defenders in Europe and a major reason behind that is his recovery speed.
Some defenders are fast but very few have the ability to quickly change direction in case they have been caught out and run back to a proper position. Varane, at such a young age, has mastered that art. Granada attackers just couldn’t get him out of position and even when they did, he was always able to recover quickly.
His tackling was also top notch against Granada which enabled to to pickpocket Granada players, almost at will. His anticipation skills ensured that he didn’t get beat when he came up against a 1v1 situation on the wings.
Varana also combined really well with the midfielders to give them cover while they were defending. That act, reduced the workload on the likes of Modric and Kroos.
Late in the game, Varane showed some great footwork, speed and strength on the sidelines when he stripped a Granada attacker of the ball with ease.
He probably sees more of the ball, in any given game, than any other player on the pitch for Real Madrid including Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.
He is involved at the back and greatly involved in the attacking third. He is a busy bee to say the least when it comes to football matches.
But that doesn’t mean Marcelo is the most valuable player for Real Madrid.
Against Granada (and versus most sides) Marcelo lost the ball many times. In the first half, Real Madrid got caught badly by Marcelo’s mistake and Granada broke and almost scored.
Well, Granada did score but it was judged offside. All because of a simply give away of the ball from Marcelo.
Real Madrid should count themselves lucky that the linesman came to their rescue.
Any other side than Granada would not make the simple square ball mistake.
Because all Granda wingman had to do was square the ball from the wings to a free player who had made a good run into the penalty box. And the wingman couldn’t do it.
Marcelo was caught out of position several times in the match and how many times have I said that it’s going to get Real Madrid killed against elite teams like PSG, Barcelona or even Atletico Madrid.
Marcelo isn’t a villain though. He is always good in attack and showed against Granada that he could be as slippery as an eel with vaseline when it comes to going past defenders in tight spaces.
There was only one time in the whole match where Marcelo defended with some brains when he waited for the winger to make his move (it was a 1v1 situation) and then made a smart tackle to strip him off the ball.
Credit where due, Marcelo was involved in many attacking moves against Granada. No other left back in the world can do what Marcelo does in the attacking third.
Marcelo combined with Benzema really well to get a pass to Ronaldo but Ronaldo couldn’t’ get a touch on the ball for a simple poacher’s goal.
Did I mention that Marcelo got caught out of position too many times? Yes, I did because he did it so many times in a single match.
It’s like Marcelo magic. One second he loses the ball in a dangerous situation for Real Madrid’s defense and in the next second he delivers a super cross into the penalty area on the other end of the pitch.
Against Granada it was certainly like that.
Marcelo’s lob ability and through ball ability was central to Real Madrid’s penetrating attacks against Granada yesterday.
And if that wasn’t enough action. Marcelo also had the time to take a bad touch on the ball and which rolled the ball out of play, albeit it happened late in the game.
But the point remains. Marcelo is just too inconsistent even during a single match, to be effective against teams that would eat you up on first time of asking.
Real Madrid defense did not impress. Marcelo and Carvajal need to improve themselves in their defensive duties before big games against Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.
Photo by DSanchez17
Photo by Jan S0L0