Ronaldo scored two goals (destroyed Raul’s record for most goals for Real Madrid) and Real Madrid didn’t concede a goal, again, against Malmo.
That means that Real Madrid, under Benitez, has only conceded once this season so far and that was against Athletic Bilbao.
Injuries to Pepe,Ramos and Danilo meant that Benitez had to play with an entirely new cast at the back. Marcelo was being rested for the derby against Atletico Madrid so, he couldn’t play either as Arbeloa stepped up to fill his shoes at left back position.
So with an entirely new defense, Real Madrid was able to keep a good Malmo side away from goal for the whole ninety minutes.
Does that mean that Rafa’s ‘master stroke’ paid off and he managed to win a difficult away game in Champions League with an entirely new defense?
Let’s have a look at the individual performances to find out.
Malmo didn’t create much danger for Navas but that doesn’t mean that Navas had nothing to do on the night.
Malmo were able to get decent shots on target and Navas proved to be up to the task almost every time.
Malmo started the game playing with an aggressive style and were not afraid to actually play the ball forward and attack Real Madrid from the wings.
Malmo played some intentional loopy high balls into the six yard box to test Navas’s aerial ability and fortunately for Real Madrid, Navas showcased his ability in the air with calm.
His handling of the ball has improved a bit since the start of the season, at least he is not punching away every other cross into the box like he used to at Levante.
In the second half, Navas was tested again with a high ball with Rosenberg coming into him and Navas again showed tremendous courage to not back off from the challenge and leaped high into the air to catch the ball above the head of Rosenberg.
Gave a solid performance for the whole of ninety minutes. I am really looking forward to the day Benitez has to make the horrible decision of picking either Danilo or Carvajal for the right back spot.
Against Malmo, with Marcelo’s absence, Real Madrid played most of their attacking plays from the right with Carvajal’s overlapping runs on the flank.
That gave Real Madrid a good bit of width.
Real Madrid did look surprisingly rusty with the ball. Carvajal lost possession with a bad ball in an advanced position on the right wing and lacked awareness on the pitch when he got hacked down from the back on the right wing again.
As always, he connected well with Isco on the wing and both of them put in some juicy crosses into the box to create opportunities for Real Madrid attack.
Before the first half was over, it was Carvajal who came closest to score Real Madrid’s second with a physics defying attempt which hit the bar.
How does a right back, falling backwards, hit a ball with the outside of his right boot and hit the bar from a tight angle on the right side of the penalty area?
It was beyond solid technique. Ronaldo’s cushioned header into the box from the byline was clever but Carvajal’s shot just came from nowhere.
His penetrating runs into the center and on the wings, were very exciting.In one particular run late in the second half Carvajal first stole the ball from the back and launched a counter attack on his own.
Carvajal, with his driving runs in the center passed the ball to Ronaldo on the right wing who hit the first defender in front of him with a weak cross.
Overall, Carvajal was as consistent as ever against Malmo and didn’t make any mistakes on the night.
Had a quiet game by his standards. But when a defender has his pace and strength, there is hardly anything that an attacker can do to at least push you in a given match.
Malmo just didn’t have the firepower to even wake Varane up from his slumber.
Varane did manage to find a Malmo attacker with his loose pass which resulted in a strike on goal for Malmo. Navas saved it with ease.
He was sloppy early on in the game when he played some wayward passes which got intercepted easily but remained solid afterwards with some strong headers and calculated clearances.
With Malmo trying to pull a Malaga on Real Madrid, Varane didn’t have much to deal with individually.
As a back four line, Real Madrid was opened up several times against Malmo and that should be something of concern to Benitez.
Yes, this back four wasn’t his first choice but with Varane in the middle and Carvajal on the right, Real Madrid should have been able to shut out Malmo completely.
Malmo didn’t have a clear chance with Varane presence in the center but they did manage to find space between Real Madrid defenders which they could have exploited if they had good strikers.
Benitez is starting to trust him more as the season progresses. Of course one could make the case that Benitez doesn’t really have a choice since Pepe and Sergio Ramos are out injured.
Nacho displayed good physical presence at the back for Real Madrid.
With Rosenberg (who plays like someone from the 80s) playing upfront for Malmo, Nacho had to cover a player who liked to push and foul defenders just for the sake of it. Or maybe he does that to put them off their equilibrium, I don’t know.
His highlight from the first half would have to be his barbaric (in a good sense) header to clear the ball on a Malmo break from the right hand side. He jumped all over the attacker and headed the ball at least 25 yards away towards the other half.
As with Varane, Nacho wasn’t really tested on the night. Malmo exclusively attacked from the break and guess what? They didn’t have any pace.
That meant that both Nacho and Varane could just outrun every Malmo attacker whenever a through ball was played either on the ground or from the air behind them.
It was refreshing to see a new face on the left hand position since Marcelo has made that area his domain for the past eight years or so.
For the first time after quite some time, Real Madrid defended with four defenders rather than three.
Arbeloa wasn’t as effective (in fact no where near as good) as as Marcelo on the left but he was very solid defensively.
His positional sense is better than that of Marcelo but evidently, he doesn’t have Marcelo’s pace or attacking skills in the other half of the pitch.
He recovered well when early on in the game he lost the ball on the left flank and made a vital tackle to stop Malmo from taking a shot from the center of the pitch. In that instance, Arbeloa showed good judgement as Varane and Nacho were slightly out of position to stop that shot from being taken.
He didn’t have much to do either after that first half tackle. For the rest of the game, he remained calm and assured on the ball. Made forward runs only when there was no chance of getting caught out at the back.
His passing ability may not be as good as Marcelo’s but his passing sense is definitely better.
As a final comment, Arbeloa cannot cross the ball. So Marcelo is safe as long as he is physically fit for the left back position.
Malmo didn’t attack much and consequently Real Madrid defense didn’t have to do much. Real Madrid midfield trio helped to smother any attacking move from developing further by closing down Malmo attackers in their own half.
That left Carvajal to routinely go forward against Malmo and furnish Real Madrid’s attack with his crosses and keep Malmo player occupied with defending rather than attacking.