Real Madrid climbed to the top of La Liga table after easily taking apart Levante who really tried to put on a show at the Bernabeu.
With goals from Marcelo, Ronaldo and Jese (in that respective order) Real Madrid had an easy ‘overcast’ day at the office
Most sides come to the Bernabeu with one single strategy, that is, play with ten men behind the ball, frustrate Real Madrid and then hit them on the counter when Real Madrid commits to many men forward for a goal.
Levante didn’t do that. They attacked Real Madrid and had a couple of great opportunities to score and take the lead in the first half.
Real Madrid welcomed back Danilo and Bale back into the starting lineup and both performed pretty reasonably for comeback games.
It must have been hard for Rafa Benitez to pick his best eleven against Levante since he was without the services of:
- Sergio Ramos
- A fully fit Gareth Bale
This also goes on to show the depth on this Real Madrid squad has in terms of talent. Players who can come off the bench and contribute on the field.
Benitez has to be given credit for keeping his reserve players, and substitutes, fit and hungry for an chances that he might throw in their way.
Lucas, Jesse and Llorente all looked up the challenge and gave Levante much trouble after coming on as substitutes in the second half.
Levante’s standing of 18 in La Liga rankings may not say much about them but even then, Benitez should be acknowledged for his skills in coming up with a strong starting eleven when seven of his first team players are out through injury.
Now, this eleven might not present much danger to the elite sides in Europe but in yesterday’s match, it certainly looked a side that was out there to prove a point.
Let’s have a look at the stars of the match for Real Madrid vs Levante:
Danilo, Nacho, Marcelo
Danilo had a solid game at the back for a comeback game and getting some minutes on the pitch, albeit against a weak Levante, would definitely do wonders for his confidence out there on the field of play.
But sometimes Danilo was found negligent of his proper position on the pitch which allowed Levante to whip in crosses from the wings which always trouble Real Madrid no matter who’s playing in the back four.
Mind you, Malaga is the only side in La Liga who was scored less than Levante, so it is safe to not draw any conclusions from this match as far a Real Madrid’s defense is concerned.
Nacho was as dependable as ever. Benitez has a nice backup option in the form of Nacho for Ramos and Pepe. The only problem with Nacho is, his mediocrity.
He doesn’t make many mistakes and rarely gives away cheap fouls but that is about the limit as far as Nacho’s usefulness on the pitch is concerned.
He isn’t slow but he isn’t like Varane either. He doesn’t score goals from corners and certainly doesn’t look like a leader at the back.
Nacho, being a youth product, has been at Real Madrid for over ten years now and is fully accustomed to the atmosphere of the club. It is about time he develops key strengths in his game that would propel him for a eternal benchwarmer to a regular starter for Real Madrid or any other top club in Europe.
Marcelo was the man of the match for Real Madrid without a doubt. On a rainy day when most players were slipping and sliding, misplacing passes, Marcelo ran the show with calm and authority.
Amazingly, Marcelo was the player who had:
- most touches on the ball for Real Madrid
- most passes in Real Madrid’s half
- most passes in Levante’s half
For a left back, that is pretty amazing and I can’t name any other left back in the world who can be and actually is as dominant on the left side of the pitch as Marcelo is for Real Madrid.
After a quick give and go pass with Ronaldo, he opened up scoring for Real Madrid around 30th minute mark with a hammer of a shot from close range inside the six yard box on the left.
Even without the goal, Marcelo would still be Real Madrid’s most effective player on the pitch as he controlled the flow of attack throughout the duration of the game. Put in some wicked crosses for Ronaldo and made several penetrating runs into Levante’s penalty box by cutting inside from the left flank.
Varane was his usual best. His speed and strength combined with a sharp mind for the game allows him to auto cruise in most games. He has improved himself to the point that now only the elite teams in Europe in terms of attack can make him really earn his money.
Otherwise, there are very strikers who can stay with him let alone outrun him on the flanks or in the middle of the park.
Levante’s case was the same, Varane dominated on the ground and in the air. The only area where Varane has to step up a bit is leadership. Without Ramos and Pepe on the field, Real Madrid do look a bit wayward in defense as there is no one to organize it at the back.
To Varane’s defense, he is still pretty young and perhaps will be able to grow into a leadership role as years pass on.
His ability to read offensive plays, make timely interceptions by closing down attacker by sneaking up on them allows Varane to be almost unbeatable at the back. HIs creativity when it comes to clearing awkwardly bouncing ball with his back turned against the goal is unique and got him out of tight situations on many occasions vs Levante.
Keylor Navas, like Iker Casillas before him, quietly goes about his business every game that keeps Real Madrid’s backdoor shut.
Navas was made to make several vital saves both in the first half and the second half which frankly disheartened Levante to the extent that they started taking shots from distances that were extremely impractical.
His main weakness, which was evident against Levante as well, is his handling of the ball. He punches too much which gives possession back to teams that organize themselves strategically.
Marcelo scored the goal that gave Real Madrid the lead but as far as defensive contributions go, Navas was the one who won the match for Real Madrid. His first half save low down to his left from a accurate header was brilliant and his positioning to save some powerful shots in the second half made sure that Benitez’s side keep another clean sheet.
Real Madrid now have conceded just two goals this campaign which has never happened since 1997.
How many of us would have predicted Real Madrid to have this kind of a miserly defense at the start of the season?