Alvaro Morata was the hat-trick hero as Real Madrid ran out 4-2 winners over Leganes in a thrilling encounter on Wednesday night
Real Madrid maintained their two-point lead over Barcelona at the top of La Liga as they edged out Leganes 4-2 in a closely contested affair at the Butarque on Wednesday night. Barcelona had kept up the pressure on Zinedine Zidane’s men with an emphatic 3-0 win over Sevilla earlier on the night.
Real Madrid sought to assert their dominance early on in the game as James Rodriguez broke the deadlock by the 15th minute. Alvaro Morata then scored two goals within five minutes to triple the visitors’ advantage by just the 23rd minute, and set them on course to victory.
FT #LeganesRealMadrid 2-4
— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) April 5, 2017
However, Leganes showed grit and determination to reduce the deficit to one goal in the next fifteen minutes, as Gabriel Pires and Luciano Neves converted from close range. But, it was Morata who put the tie to bed almost immediately after the break by completing his hat-trick.
Thus, Real Madrid remained two points clear of Barcelona with the advantage of having a game in hand ahead of their crunch Derby against Atletico Madrid on the weekend. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the talking points emerging in the aftermath of Wednesday’s match.
The BBC Debate Rages On
The last two seasons in La Liga have seen a battle within a battle between Real Madrid and Barcelona. The two clubs have strived to outdo each other, as they have over the years, but as have the two star front trios that have been forged by the bitter rivals.
— Madridismo Global (@MadridismoGL) April 5, 2017
Real Madrid have had the BBC – Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo – plonking goals aplenty, while Barcelona have had the MSN – Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar – finding the back of the net at will, with all six players battling each other for the Pichichi award.
However, the spark has been missing somewhat this season for Real Madrid. The trio haven’t combined at their fluid best, with the Los Blancos’ attack not dominating defences like they have over the last few seasons, and their unwillingness to contribute in defence has left the side short on men off the ball.
That has not been the case when the likes of Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez and Alvaro Morata have played, with Real Madrid managing to win 10 of the 11 games without Ronaldo with relative ease. So, are Real Madrid better off without each member of the BBC playing week in week out? The early evidence certainly points towards that.
Leganes Provide A Good Account Of Themselves In Defeat
Leganes made history last season when they managed to secure promotion to La Liga for the first time in their history. So, it was understandable when the minnows were not expected to do well in the Spanish top flight in their maiden campaign, with many even predicting an immediate return to the Segunda division.
Real Madrid have kept only 8 clean sheets in the league this season. Leganes have kept 9.
— Rk (@RahatRMCF) April 5, 2017
And remaining true to expectations, they have struggled for large parts of 2016/17, lying perilously close to the drop zone in 17th place, five points clear in safety. But on account of Wednesday night’s performance, they have shown that they can play with the big boys of Spanish top flight.
When Real Madrid established a three-goal lead just 23 minutes into the match, all signs were pointing towards a long night for the home side, but they subsequently threatened to claw their way back into the match with two quick goals.
The fourth Real Madrid goal ultimately rounded the loss for Leganes, but they continued to display grit and determination in their bid to find a way back into the match. Captain Martin Mantovani has asserted that avoiding relegation is their primary objective, and if they can continue to play like they did on Wednesday, then they’ll certainly stay safe.
Zidane’s Rotation Gamble: Real Madrid Show Off Strength In Depth
Real Madrid have a busy April ahead of them. Only 5 days into the month and they have already played two matches, with seven more to come over the next three and a half weeks. So, keeping his players fresh and fit is a big challenge that Zinedine Zidane has on his hands.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) April 5, 2017
Asensio: “I know Zidane trusts me and he gives me minutes whenever he can.” pic.twitter.com/v4tdG8ayKl
— RMadrid Edition (@RMadridEdition) April 5, 2017
In a bid to do exactly that, the Real Madrid boss made nine changes to the side that beat Alaves 3-0 on Sunday. Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Cristiano Ronaldo played no part whatsoever in the match, while the likes of Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Dani Carvajal started from the bench.
And the fringe players stood up and made themselves count on Wednesday in one of the most all-round attacking displays from Real Madrid in recent weeks to overcome a resilient Leganes side. The likes of Marco Asensio, Alvaro Morata, Mateo Kovacic, James Rodriguez and others all showed that Zidane can rely on them whenever called upon.
Los Blancos now have their most crucial juncture of the season ahead of them, with matches against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich (twice) to play in the space of 18 days. Zidane can, thus, take heart from the fact that his “reserves” can step up whenever needed to complement the star players, a quality that could see Real Madrid ultimately prevail in both competitions.
Alvaro Morata Must Make A Decision On Future
2016/17 has been a season of struggle for Alvaro Morata, who must have thought that he had his Real Madrid dream back on following his return from Juventus. But eight months on, and his career seems to have gone nowhere really.
FT: Leganes 2-4 Real Madrid
Álvaro Morata’s hat trick, the first of his senior career, leads Real past Leganes! pic.twitter.com/YHW2Cv9GGV
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 5, 2017
The Spaniard has struggled to carve out a regular place for himself, with Zinedine Zidane favouring the senior striker Karim Benzema instead. As a result, Morata has rightly been linked with a move away from the Spanish capital ahead of the reopening of the transfer window in June.
Stats give an indication that he has a good case to make to be the first-choice striker ahead of the French veteran. He has only made 14 starts all season, but has still managed to score 16 times, with his hat-trick on Wednesday being the first of his senior career.
To put things into perspective, he now has more goals in La Liga than Benzema, despite starting on fewer occasions. With 2017/18 being the last season before the World Cup, Morata must make a decision on his future to ensure that he has a seat for himself on the plane to Russia.
Real Madrid’s Defensive Frailties Exposed Again
Real Madrid lead the race to win La Liga at the end of the season and rightly so, with their midfielders taking command of most games, and the glut of forwards at Zinedine Zidane’s disposal often scoring goals with ease.
Real Madrid Next 5 fixtures
Brace yourselves Madridistas
— Hammad (@Ronaldoesquee) April 5, 2017
However, if there is one achilles heel pulling his side back, it’s the defence. The back five have often been prone to committing needless errors, with lapses in concentration providing opposition attacks regular sniffs at their goal.
Zidane must find a way to plug the holes in his defence with less than two months left in the campaign as that threatens to take the momentum they currently hold, away from their hands. And with the big games to come this month, the errors need to be coached out of their games in order to ensure positive results.