Casemiro and Thibaut Courtois made the difference as Real Madrid snatched a narrow 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid in La Liga on Saturday night.
It was Real Valladolid who came the closest to scoring early in the game as Fabian Orellana and Saidy Janko were denied by a top double save from Thibaut Courtois. Real Madrid slowly started growing in stature and Mariano Diaz put the ball into the back of the net twice but was denied on both occasions for offside as the scoreline stayed 0-0 at half-time.
The second half was off to a lively start with both teams conjuring up half-chances but it was Real Madrid that ultimately broke the deadlock in the 65th minute as Casemiro rose high and headed in Toni Kroos’ free-kick. The La Liga champions saw out the game comfortably with Valladolid hardly threatening, to pick up an important with at Estadio Jose Zorrilla.
The victory was a crucial one considering that leaders Atletico Madrid had droppeed points earlier in the day, with Real Madrid now moving to within three points of their neighbours. Here’s how we rated the performances of Zinedine Zidane’s men on the night.
Thibaut Courtois: 8/10
*3 clean sheets in a row, 15 in a season*
An appreciation tweet for the Best Goalkeeper in the World, Thibaut Courtois. pic.twitter.com/6fMe4x1daG
— Toni (@ToniKrooz8) February 20, 2021
Made a brilliant double save to deny Orellana and Janko just six minutes into the game and continued to thwart the hosts every time they threatened his goal, finishing the game with five saves, including a fine stop to keep out Orellana’s volley in the second half. Ensured that his team stayed in the game.
Lucas Vazquez: 7/10
Starting at right-back in the absence of Dani Carvajal, the Spaniard, who will soon out be of contract, enjoyed a solid outing. Reliable defensively as he produced six tackles and three interceptions while got forward to good effect as well, making two key passes and forcing a save from the Valladolid goalkeeper.
Raphael Varane: 7/10
Captaining the side on the night, Varane had a jittery start but grew in stature as the game wore on and bossed proceedings at the back. Unbeatable in the air, the Frenchman won all of his aerial duels while also making eight clearances in addition to making a couple of interceptions.
— Los Blancos Live (@blancoslive) February 20, 2021
Apart from a late error that let Shon Weissman in, the Real Madrid utility man had a solid enough outing. Showed good understanding with Varane and kept the hosts in check for large parts after the initial ten-minute flurry.
Ferland Mendy: 5.5/10
Not the best of the nights for the left-back as he failed to make vital contributions going forward on his flank apart from a good cross to set up Sergio Arribas in the second half. Defensively not always convincing either, with one particular moment when a bizarre pass led to a Valladolid chance causing concern.
Luka Modric: 7/10
Just does not show any signs of age catching up with him as he continues to start game after game and play with the same energy and purpose. Drove forward when on the ball as he completed three dribbles and completed a couple of key passes. Did his bit in the defensive side of things as well, completing three tackles and two interceptions.
Casemiro has now scored five goals for Real Madrid in LaLiga this season, equalling his highest ever return in a single league campaign (2017-18).
Real's unlikely source of goals this season. pic.twitter.com/4IhK47nAhQ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 20, 2021
The match-winner for Real Madrid on the night, Casemiro could have had a hat-trick on the night but had spurned two great chances in the first half to put his team ahead. However, made no mistake the third time of asking as he rose the highest to divert Kroos’ free-kick into the net to score the only goal of the game. Was sharp in his defensive duties as well, making three tackles and interceptions each.
Toni Kroos: 8/10
The catalyst for Real Madrid’s victory on the night, Kroos was the chief creative source for the reigning champions, playing four key passes that included the assist for Casemiro’s goal. Worked hard off the ball as well, making four tackles. Has now created more chances than any other player in La Liga.
Toni Kroos in his last 5 La Liga games:
• 26 chances created (5.2 per game).
• 80.9 passes completed per game.
• 94.8% pass accuracy.
• 90.2% long pass accuracy.
• 5 assists.
• 1 goal.
He’s on another level… pic.twitter.com/8QjS4bp6xl
— TC. (@totalcristiano) February 20, 2021
Marco Asensio: 5/10
A disappointing outing for the Spanish international who struggled to get going on Saturday night. Fired one over the bar early on but that was as close as he got to posing a threat in the final third. Subbed off soon after Casemiro’s goal.
Mariano Diaz: 5.5/10
Getting a rare starting opportunity in the absence of Karim Benzema, the striker tried to get himself involved but wasn’t able to make the desired impact. Did put the ball into the back of the net twice in the first half but was offside on each occasion. Needs to do better.
Vinicius Junior: 5/10
Showed the right intent but the end product did not match up. Got into decent positions on a few occasions but wasn’t able to make the most of it. Did not complete a single dribble or key pass on the night before being subbed off. Has gotten a rare run in the side, but he is failing to make it count.
Sergio Arribas: 6/10
On for Asensio soon after the opening goal. Could have scored but failed to connect with Mendy’s cross. Booked.
Replaced Vinicius in the 66th minute. A decent cameo from the Spaniard who helped Real Madrid keep control of things in the dying stages.
Hugo Duro: 5/10
Hugo Duro has made his debut with Real Madrid’s first team today against Valladolid.
— Real Madrid Fabrica (@FabricaMadrid) February 20, 2021
Came on to replace Diaz for the final 25 minutes to make his first-team debut. Wasn’t involved a great deal.