Real Madrid dropped their first points of the season as they came from behind to hold Athletic Bilbao to a 1-1 draw at San Mames on Saturday.
The visitors set the pace early on, dominating the proceedings for the first half hour, although Bilbao did take the game to them when presented with an opportunity. But, the scales tipped in the Basque outfit’s favour when, against the run of play, Iker Muniain finished off a swift counter-attacking move.
With Real Madrid backpedalling, Los Leones looked to drive home their advantage when Raul Garcia seemed to have scored another close-range goal, only to be pulled back for offside. On the other end, Bilbao had academy graduate Unai Simon to thank for making a string of stunning stops to deny Real Madrid.
But, the hosts’ resistance finally gave way when second half substitute Isco glanced a header past Simon from Gareth Bale’s pinpoint cross. Real Madrid had further chances to complete a crucial turnaround with the Bilbao players tiring, but could not apply the finishing touches.
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And so, Los Blancos dropped their first points of the season, which now means they are trailing bitter rivals Barcelona by two points following the Blaugrana’s own comeback win earlier in the day. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Julen Lopetegui’s men.
Thibaut Courtois: 6/10
Preferred to Keylor Navas once again, it is turning out to be quite the trial by fire for Courtois thus far. Bilbao’s pressing paved the way for uncomfortable clearing on a few occasions, although he did make a couple of decent stops. Could have done very little to deny Muniain, with the defenders more at fault than him. Navas though, will fancy his chances of starting against AS Roma.
Dani Carvajal: 6/10
Far from his best on the night, when he was also found out defensively on one occasion. Carvajal allowed his marker, Muniain to drift away, which ultimately ended up with the Bilbao man finding the back of the net. Didn’t contribute much in the final third either, despite his trademark lung busting runs.
Raphael Varane: 8/10
The standout player for Real Madrid on a tough night. Varane often had to engage in a foot race with the enterprising Inaki Williams, coming off the better on nearly every occasion. The Frenchman was dominant in the air as well, with very little going past him on the night. A crucial tackle late on ensured Bilbao didn’t find their way back to the lead. Well and truly back to his best.
Sergio Ramos: 5/10
A poor outing by the Real Madrid captain, who was at fault for the opening goal of the match, having been caught ball watching at a crucial moment. A few more lapses in concentration followed, although Bilbao couldn’t make him pay for it.
Was more involved in attack than usual, making forward runs at a regular rate. Forced Unai Simon to make a clutch save from point-blank range. But, it is at the back where Ramos needed to do better, and Real Madrid paid the price.
Another player who was at fault for the game’s opener, Marcelo was caught out of position, allowing Markel Susaeta to have the time and space to set up the goal. Did absolutely nothing of note at the back.
But, as is often the case with the Brazilian maverick, he was a polar opposite in the final third, showing some exquisite touches that helped him create space for himself. But, his end product was lacking on the night, something he’ll hope to improve in Real Madrid’s midweek Champions League game.
Luka Modric: 6/10
Modric continued to build his rhythm after a belated start to the campaign. He initially showed good understanding with Marco Asensio, and tested Unai Simon with a driving shot. But, his passing is still not up to scratch, which wasn’t helped by Bilbao’s relentless and smart pressing.
Toni Kroos: 6.5/10
Speaking of players affected by Los Leones’ pressing on the night, Kroos had a tough time in the middle of the park, especially in the first half when he was operating from a deeper position.
Casemiro’s introduction though, freed him up, which was evident in his crisp passing in the second half. The German also made a telling contribution when he picked out Bale, who set up the equaliser.
Dani Ceballos: 6/10
Another indication that Ceballos is enjoying more confidence from Lopetegui than he did from Zinedine Zidane. The Spaniard put in a determined shift, and was a hard worker in the middle of the park, but his forward forays weren’t quite as impressive. Was an unfortunate casualty as the Real Madrid boss sought to add more steel in midfield in the form of Casemiro.
Gareth Bale: 7/10
Not quite as involved on Saturday as he has been in the initial stages of the season for Real Madrid. Bale offered very little in what as a subdued outing. But, he provided another reminder that he is up to the task of filling Cristiano Ronaldo’s void, showcasing his class by providing the assist for Isco’s goal, with his weaker foot no less.
Karim Benzema: 6/10
After a spectacular start to the season, Benzema too, wasn’t up to the high standards he has set for himself in the first three games. While he wasn’t presented with many opportunities on the night, his hold-up play was found wanting as well due to Bilbao’s relentless pressing. Will hope to chalk off the outing as a rare failure.
Marco Asensio: 7.5/10
The best of the lot as far as Real Madrid’s attack was concerned, Asensio was visibly brimming with confidence following a stellar showing for Spain in the international break. His pace, dribbling and direct play made him a thorn on the side for Bilbao. But, he couldn’t quite make a tangible difference, with the inspired Unai Simon standing between him and the winning goal.
On at half-time, Casemiro calmed the nerves and provided a sense of control that Real Madrid were craving for since going down to Muniain’s goal. Pressed higher up, which allowed Kroos and Modric to do their bit from deeper positions. Will be a vital cog against AS Roma.
Isco made an instant impact upon his introduction at the hour mark, levelling the scores with his first touch on the ball – a glancing header than Unai Simon had no reply to. Real Madrid showed a marked improvement with Isco in midfield, with the Spaniard linking up play smartly and showing an upturn in form.
Lucas Vazquez: N/A
On for Bale in the final 15 minutes, Vazquez did not do anything of note and earned an unnecessary booking for a foul late on. Looks a little short of confidence at the moment, with Lopetegui’s system not exactly suiting him all that well.