Malmo came to the game against Real Madrid with an odd strategy. Generally teams play rather aggressively in their home ground to push away teams into their shells and dominate them.
Malmo, didn’t even try to do that against Real Madrid except the first ten minutes of the game.
After the first ten minutes, Malmo just went back to to the edge of their box and waited for the next 90 minutes to, first, suck Real Madrid deep into their own half and then catch Real Madrid off guard on the counter attack.
The scoreline shows that Malmo’s strategy of attacking exclusively on the break did not give out proper dividends.
Real Madrid’s midfield managed to control Malmo for most of the game and even when Malmo did break on the counter, the trio of Kroos, Casemiro and Kovacic stopped them with better positioning and anticipation skills.
Kroos, Kovacic and Casemiro form a midfield which doesn’t offer the team much in attack but in every other area is better than a midfield trio of , supposedly Real Madrid’s strongest, Kroos, Modric and James.
Here is how the trio did against Malmo:
His long balls throughout the ninety minutes formed the backbone of every Real Madrid attack.
Kroos released the likes of Ronaldo (in the center) and Carvajal (on the right wing) almost at his own convenience against Malmo, with his long, fast and accurate diagonal balls.
Malmo tried to stop him with fouls but obviously, failed.
And it wasn’t just from the central midfield that Kroos controlled the game by picking out crosses to Carvajal on the right, Arbeloa on the left and Ronaldo in the middle.
He also moved into advanced positions to curl in some good crosses for Ronaldo and Benzema numerous times against Malmo.
He did have his less-than-ideal moments and one of those towards the end of the first half, when his through ball was a bit too heavy for Carvajal who couldn’t chase the ball down the right wing as it wasn’t weighed properly.
Overall, he looked like he finally naturalized in the Xabi Alonso role, he was initially required to fill in when he moved to Real Madrid a couple of seasons ago.
Though, like Alonso, he offers very little in the attacking department. His poor control near the penalty box, even against a defense like that of Malmo’s, doesn’t bode well for future games against elite teams.
Got a rare start under Benitez and his first contribution of the game was a back heel pass which Arbeloa misread. The ball went out of play and Real Madrid gave the ball away to Malmo for free.
That may not look like much but if you give the ball without causing trouble, against elite teams, you’ll get punished.
His touch surprisingly wasn’t up to the mark either as he miscontrolled the ball a couple of times in the first half but later, did show good control of the ball when he volleyed a ball that came straight from the corner on top D position which went for a corner.
Though he didn’t score a goal, but the effort was worth it.
His bad judgement on a short corner caused him to lunge into a ball he couldn’t win. Consequently, Kovacic was yellow carded for deliberately bringing down Malmo attacker to stop their counter attack.
For the remainder of the first half Kovacic alternated between losing the ball with misplaced passes and sharp hard fast passes on the wings to Arbeloa and Carvajal.
Mateo started the second half strong with a good half volley again from a laid off pass by Isco on top penalty area of the home side.
Despite a strong start, Kovacic slided back to his alternate gameplay by again losing the ball when trying to release a teammate in the middle and then taking possession back moments later with an intelligent interception.
He was lucky not get substituted (and not get red carded by the referee when he brought down another Malmo attacker on the wing) earlier by Benitez because at Real Madrid, sudden dips in level of intensity in a football match is usually rewarded with a bench place in the next.
He was, deservingly, taken off on the 72nd minute mark and replaced with Lucas.
Lucas, always lively, played with great pace on the right wing in front of Carvajal.
He got a Malmo player player sent off when he was brought down on the right wing after stripping Malmo defender with a neat touch in the other way.
Vasquez due to lack of experience chose to chip the ball in no man’s land over the goal when Ronaldo was waiting with his hands up on the far side for an easy tap in goal but then made up for that blunder with a good low hard ball across the goal for Ronaldo to finish it for his second goal of the night.
Lucas, could have had two assists had Ronaldo been really on song as he whipped in another cross from the right wing into the box for an unmarked Ronaldo who missed a volley 12 yards from goal in a central area.
It was not expected that Benitez would start with Casemiro in an away game, early on in the group stages of the Champions League., but he did and Casemiro did pretty okay.
Pretty okay, will get Casemiro benched but who knows, an injury here and there would see Casemiro being called up for the starting eleven in no time.
Playing as a defensive midfielder in a three man midfield for Real Madrid, he saw a lot of the ball of the ball.
His passing ability was poor even against Malmo who didn’t close him down. One can only wonder how his nerves would hold up when Griezmann jumps on him in the derby against Atletico tomorrow.
Tried an audacious attempt from the halfway line with a lace shot towards Malmo goal and as expected, failed miserably as the ball barely reached the goal line.
A combination of a great ball to Isco on the right and a mistimed slide tackle while defending on the left saw Casemiro follow in the footsteps of Kovacic as far as lack of consistency was concerned.
Just like Kovacic, Casemiro switched between winning the ball back with a good tackle and committing a pointless foul to give Malmo free kicks in dangerous positions throughout the first half.
Casemiro continued in the same fashion in the second half as well with good long balls to Carvajal being followed up by poorly timed fouls. Unlike Kovacic, Casemiro complemented his play with some neat tricks such as letting a pass go through his legs to fool the onrushing Malmo player which ended up at the feet of Varane.
His only contribution in the second half was, again, a poor ball control which led to an counter attack from Malmo and an accurate long ball to Ronaldo later in the second half.
It might come as a surprise to some but Casemiro does not deserve a place in the starting line up for Real Madrid simply because he cannot maintain a high level of play throughout the game.
Malmo played to frustrate Real Madrid by playing with ten men behind the ball at all times and tried to cause damage on the break.
Real Madrid midfield under the leadership of Kroos knew better and countered appropriately.
However, one player that is,Casemiro can look forward to ample bench time in the coming months for his performance against Malmo.