Real Madrid were made to work hard for three points on Wednesday as they came from behind to beat Leganes 3-1 at the Butarque.
Leganes’ hopes of stunning Real Madrid for a second successive game were strengthened after Unai Bustinza smartly nodded in the opener just six minutes into the match. Los Blancos, though, quickly responded, levelling things up five minutes later through Lucas Vazquez, who was set up by Casemiro.
The Brazilian then grabbed a goal for himself just before the half-hour mark, finishing a slick move to give his side the lead. The second half was a more sombre affair, with chances coming few and far between for both sides, until Mateo Kovacic was fouled in the Leganes box in the dying stages of the match.
— Real Madrid C.F.🇺🇸🇬🇧 (@realmadriden) February 21, 2018
Sergio Ramos converted the resulting penalty as Real Madrid completed a respectable comeback. The result helped the Spanish champions leapfrog Valencia into third place, although they’re still 14 points adrift of Barcelona. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Zinedine Zidane’s men.
Kiko Casilla: 6.5/10
Handed a rare start in goal as Zinedine Zidane chose to rest Keylor Navas. Casilla was nervy to begin with, fumbling Bustinza’s initial effort before the ball was bundled in on the rebound.
Post the early stages of the match though, Casilla was calm and composed, impressing with one save from Claudio Beauvue in particular, when he had to react sharply in order to ensure Real Madrid kept hold of the lead.
Dani Carvajal: 7/10
Carvajal needed to stay on his toes to ensure Leganes didn’t do more damage after the initial goal, and he defended diligently all through the game. On the other end of the pitch, the Spaniard struck up a nice understanding with Lucas Vazquez, exchanging some neat one-touch passes.
But, his impact in the final third was more restrictive than usual with his compatriot staying wide for the most part.
Raphael Varane: 7/10
The best defender on the night for Real Madrid, Varane nullified the threat posed by the Leganes attack by using his pace to good effect. One such instance saw him cut out Diego Rico’s cross to snuff out the danger of Beauvue behind him. The Frenchman also initiated plays from the back, linking defence with midfield with crisp passing.
Sergio Ramos: 6.5/10
Making his 550th appearance for Real Madrid, Ramos made a sluggish start to the game, failing to mark Bustinza for his initial effort, before the Leganes man broke the deadlock. He then grabbed an unenviable record after picking up his 163rd booking in La Liga – the most for any player in the league’s history.
Otherwise, the Real Madrid captain was solid at the back and ended the game on a strong note by rounding off the win with a 90th minute penalty – his third goal in last four games.
Theo Hernandez: 7/10
Deputising for the injured Marcelo, Theo gave a good account of himself on the night, although the start to the game was hardly ideal. His attempted clearance hit a diving Bustinza, who headed in the ball in the process.
But, the youngster slowly grew into the game, becoming increasingly confident as the match went on. It showed in his defending too, as Theo put in some well timed tackles and linked up play well in the final third.
1 – Casemiro has both scored and assisted in a same game for Real Madrid for the first time ever in all competitions. Crucial. pic.twitter.com/meLBxRRyaN
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 21, 2018
Wednesday’s game was a rare occasion when Casemiro didn’t largely occupy the space ahead of the back four, with Kovacic covering up on that aspect. As the Brazilian took up a more advanced role than usual, he became a major factor in attack, first setting up Lucas Vazquez’s goal brilliantly before grabbing one for himself.
His goal, in particular, was the highlight of the night as he initiated and finished a move that will rank as one of the best team goals of the season. A key component in Real Madrid’s midfield, regardless of the positions he takes up.
Back into the side after starting on the bench at Real Betis, Isco did not have a game to remember. The Spaniard failed to create any sort of impact in the game while also losing possession to kill the momentum. His levels dropped significantly in the second half when the visitors needed him to take charge of the game.
Mateo Kovacic: 8.5/10
Another of the players who received a rare start on the night, Kovacic was perhaps, Real Madrid’s best player, giving Zidane much to think about regarding his inclusion in future games. Sat in a deep role in front of the back-line the Croat was disciplined while defending, while also being adventurous in attack.
Mateo Kovačić’s game by the numbers:
Passes completed: 88
Pass accuracy: 96.7%
Key passes: 2
Accurate long balls: 3
Dribbles attempted: 8
Successful dribbles: 8
Duels won: 15
Man of the match performance pic.twitter.com/WTduN6Q0IB
— ™ (@Tacticomotion_) February 21, 2018
When the opportunity presented itself, the player made a few lung-bursting runs, with one such instance ending with the penalty decision that got Zidane’s men their third goal. His superb passing abilities were there for all to see as well, and this was an outing that warrants more regular inclusion going forward.
Marco Asensio: 7.5/10
Asensio seems to be back in Zidane’s good books. On Wednesday, the youngster started strongly, looking to find his teammates while also creating space with some smart touches on the ball. The Spaniard is evidently growing in confidence once again as indicated by four completed dribbles on the night. A healthy rotation option with Gareth Bale.
Lucas Vazquez: 8.5/10
Lucas Vazquez was another player who has staked claim for regular inclusion in future games after producing a second successive performance to remember. He first scored the goal that levelled things up – a smart finish at that, finding just the space that was available beyond Ivan Cuellar.
10- Only Cristiano Ronaldo (10 and 2) has been involved in more goals for Real Madrid than Lucas Vazquez (4 goals, 6 assists) in 2018 in all competitions. Ray. pic.twitter.com/QphYSvZaDd
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 21, 2018
Vazquez also played a key role in Casemiro’s goal, and his work-rate was impeccable on the night. Only Theo Hernandez had more tackles than Vazquez, whose productivity was simply fantastic. Seems to have come into his own, especially considering his end product has improved significantly.
Karim Benzema: 7/10
For large parts of the season, Benzema has been found wanting not just in his goal tally, but also his usual escape route – the link-up play. On Wednesday though, while the goals didn’t come, the French striker certainly had his fallback in his kitty, and how.
Benzema initiated the move that led to Real Madrid’s opener and was heavily involved in the goal that gave the visitors the lead as well. Hopefully for Zidane & co. this is a start of a fine run of form that will lead them to success.
Gareth Bale: 6/10
On for the final 15 minutes, Bale continued building up his fitness and looks close to his best now. Looked raring to go as he even produced a sharp save from Cuellar towards the end of the match. Will now be looking to start regularly and save his Real Madrid career, which is reportedly on the line.