Casemiro and Karim Benzema were on target as Real Madrid earned a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Granada in La Liga at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium on Wednesday.
The game was off to a bright start, with both Granada and Real Madrid creating chances early on. Antonio Puertas skied his effort just two minutes in before Karim Benzema had an effort saved soon after. Thereafter, the hosts dominated possession, but Granada kept their discipline and did not allow them any clear-cut chances.
Real Madrid came out with more purpose in the second period as Marco Asensio struck the woodwork before Federico Valverde and Toni Kroos both had shots saved. However, in the 57th minute, Zinedine Zidane’s were able to break the deadlock as Casemiro rose above Jesus Vallejo to head home Asensio’s cross.
Granada upped the ante as they pushed for the equaliser and conjured up a few half-chances, but could not find a way through. And deep in stoppage time, Benzema made it 2-0 with a fine left-footed strike from just outside the box to seal an important victory for his team at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium.
The result meant Real Madrid moved level on points with La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid, who happen to have two games in hand. And, here’s how we rated the performances of Los Blancos’ stars on Wednesday night.
Thibaut Courtois: 6.5/10
An early mistake, when he mishandled the ball, gifted Kenedy a great chance, but recovered to stop the on-loan Chelsea winger. Made a good save soon after Casemiro had scored to keep Antonio Puertas out and protect Real Madrid’s lead.
Dani Carvajal: 7.5/10
A strong all-round display from the right-back, who remained solid for most parts in defence. Made two tackles and three interceptions while coming out on top in four headed duels. Looked good pushing forward as well, with Carvajal completing two key passes while having a shot blocked.
Raphael Varane: 5/10
A shaky outing for the Frenchman, whose poor pass led to the chance for Puertas just two minutes into the game, while another hairy moment in the second half almost led to Jorge Molina capitalising when the score was 1-0. Was sloppy with his distribution on the night, but did just about enough to deal with the visitors’ attack while also having a header saved at the other end.
Sergio Ramos: 7/10
Respect between ex‐teammates. ❤️
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) December 23, 2020
Much more assured with the ball than his partner as Ramos aided Real Madrid’s build-up play from the back with his precise passing. Did his defensive duties well, too, going up against Roberto Soldado, as he finished the game with two interceptions, two clearances and five aerial duels won, while he also squeezed in a key pass on the night.
Ferland Mendy: 7/10
A solid display from the Real Madrid left-back, who allowed little past him on the night but was much more conserved going forward than usual. Having said that, he still managed to enjoy some neat link-ups with Rodrygo Goes and Asensio on the left and completed one key pass in the game.
Federico Valverde: 7/10
Replacing Luka Modric in the starting XI, the Uruguayan international impressed with his intensity and pressing, as he forced turnovers in midfield and tried to push forward at every given opportunity. Was denied by the Granada goalkeeper in the second half and played a couple of key passes as well. Hasn’t looked at his best since returning from injury, but a decent enough display.
Could have given away a penalty for a shirt-pull on Yangel Herrera which was not spotted by the referee of the VAR. Otherwise, was a solid presence in front of the Real Madrid defence, breaking up play effectively as he made two tackles and a game-high four interceptions. His most vital contribution, though, came at the other end as he leapt high and bundled home Asensio’s cross to open the scoring.
📊| In the last 4 Real Madrid games:
•Casemiro scored vs Atletico
•Kroos scored vs Athletic Bilbao
•Modrić scored vs Eibar
•Casemiro scored vs Granada
They never let us down. pic.twitter.com/8S2WYRaj8R
— Madrid Xtra. (@XtraMadrid) December 23, 2020
Toni Kroos: 8/10
Had to shoulder the majority of creative responsibilities in the absence of Modric and did so impressively, withstanding the pressure from the visitors. Almost everything Real Madrid created went through him, as he had the most touches (100) and completed the most passes (74), which included three key passes. Saw an effort fizz just wide of goal in the first half and had another saved in the second.
Lucas Vazquez: 6.5/10
A much quieter performance from the Spaniard compared to some of his recent displays, but he was not lacking in effort as he worked hard to track back and drove at the opponents when on the ball. Made two tackles and completed one key pass before making way for Vinicius Junior.
Karim Benzema: 7/10
Saw an early shot diverted behind and found it tougher than usual to make things happen in the final third in the first half. Much livelier after the break as he was involved in some neat interplay with his teammates before he sealed the win for Real Madrid with a fine shot after a good run in stoppage time.
No player has scored more LaLiga goals (8) this season than Karim Benzema.
He's now got four goals in his last three league games for Real Madrid. pic.twitter.com/FYloFOfTzQ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 23, 2020
Rodrygo Goes: 7/10
Lively in the early exchanges, as he cut inside from the left and caused some problems to the Granada defence. Had a shot saved, completed a dribble and three key passes, before he had to be stretchered off with an injury in the 38th minute.
Marco Asensio: 8/10
Replaced the injured Rodrygo in the 38th minute and looked in his elements. Came close to scoring in the second half with a stunning back-heel effort, but it bounced off the woodwork. Set Casemiro up for the opening goal with a good cross. The first time he has been directly involved in a goal in 19 games.
Vinicius Junior: N/A
On for Vazquez in the 78th minute.
Replaced Valverde with a little over ten minutes left. Squandered an opportunity before he got the assist for Benzema’s goal.