Malaga had little influence on the game against Real Madrid but that tends to happen to lots of teams who come to play at Bernabeu.
But what did Real Madrid’s midfield do to make Malaga’s midfield (and the forwards) almost non existent.
Real Madrid is a team which attacks a lot with the wing backs which leaves a lot of work to be done, defensively, on the shoulders of the midfielders.
Malaga was able to play the ball forward only on counter attacks, especially in the second half and overall were unable to string passes together to stretch Real Madrid or take Real Madrid midfielders out of position.
It is true that Real Madrid did not score against Malaga but that doesn’t mean Real Madrid didn’t create opportunities. Real Madrid had seven, may be even eight, chances to score reasonably easy goals but luck just wasn’t on Real Madrid’s side against Malaga.
Let’s have a look at why Real Madrid midfielders were able to whip up so many chances for the forwards and keep Malaga threat at bay.
Isco has taken full advantage of the chances he has been given by Rafa Benitez because of injuries to James and Bale.
He inside dribbling and grit against Malaga enabled Real Madrid to keep the ball moving forward from the midfield throughout the duration of the game.
His cutback with a ‘Ronaldo chop’ trick inside the penalty area near the goalline on the left hand side opened Malaga’s defense wide. Unfortunately, he couldn’t finish the move off with a six yard volley. The angle was very tight though.
Isco’s quick and sharp passing with Ronaldo on top of 18 yard box again broke Malaga’s defensive wall but the shot from Isco was poor. That is one area of his game which he needs to improve if he wants to change Benitez’s mind about who plays between him and Rodriguez.
His poor shooting technique was on display again as he controlled an overhit Ronaldo cross with confidence but then took a weak shot which killed off the chance immediately.
He had another opportunity just before half time from a wonder diagonal long ball by Marcelo from the left wing and to be fair to Isco, he did almost score a “zidane goal” by taking the volley on the run without taking a touch from a tight position on the right of the penalty area of Malaga.
In the second half, Isco was very effective with his left foot crosses into the box near the goal lines and combined to Kovacic and Benzema to great effect.
He probably came closest to scoring a goal against Malaga when he took another half volley with his left foot in the penalty area from a deflected Benzema shot which was cleared bang on the line by Wellington (Malaga’s experienced defender).
Overall, Isco put in a good shift though his understanding with Ronaldo on the pitch can certainly improve.
Kroos was the midfield general against Malaga. He distribution was excellent and his defensive positioning against Malaga counter attacks was very intelligent.
His calmness in the midfield always has a moral boosting effect on the rest of the team. He along with Modric are the two people in the midfield everyone looks up to when it gets hectic in the midfield.
His covering capabilities on the wings made it difficult for Malaga to put in crosses into Real Madrid’s penalty area. On the attacking front, his stinger pass to Ronaldo into the box on the left gave Ronaldo another chance to score from his left. Regrettably, Ronaldo hit the side netting with a low shot from the left foot.
I don’t know if it was Ronaldo or what, but several players just couldn’t pick up his runs. Kroos was one of those players and in the second half his lob went nowhere near Ronaldo’s run and ended up giving possession back to Malaga when they were under the cosh.
His super long ball to Isco (near penalty area on the right) from left midfield was great and so were several of his looping short lob passes to Carvajal on the wings near the eighteen yard box of Malaga.
Overall a very solid performance. One wonders though if he had a seedorf shot on him, he could have been twice the player he is now.
He pulled the strings from midfield all night against Malaga but was surprisingly inaccurate with several his passes from left midfield.
His ball control while running was also not up to his usual high standards. As with several other players, he had trouble measuring passes to Ronaldo. One great long ball did end up on Ronaldo’s feet but he was offside.
His highlight from the first half was an annoying over hit lob pass from central midfield.
His consistency improved a lot in the second half and his sublime one touch passing with Carvajal and Kovacic opened up Malaga’s defense inside their own eighteen yard box which game Modric a clear shot on goal.
Kameni, Real Madrid’s tormentor for the night, stopped Modric’s low shot on the near post with ease.
He was the only player on the pitch whose passes slipped by Malaga’s ten men wall (in their own penalty area) which gave Real Madrid a lot of chances to go ahead.
Even on Real Madrid midfielder’s average day, there are very few teams who can outclass them. Malaga just could not come to terms with the completeness Modric and Kroos showed in their movement on the pitch.
Kroos and Modric, were effective on both sides of the pitch. Malaga players couldn’t read Isco as well, who was given a free role by Benitez.
The only things missing from Real Madrid’s midfield was a goal because the forwards sure as hell weren’t scoring one.
Kroos and Modric did have half chances in the second half but were unable to take those half chances for the fear of losing possession which ultimately lead them to play relatively safe passes and granted Malaga to run the clock down.