Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos were among the game-changers as Real Madrid ran out 3-1 victors against Celta Vigo at Balaidos on Saturday.
The match started on a bit of a sombre note, as neither side really managed to threaten the goal. That was until the 20th minute, when Karim Benzema scored from close range after being set up by Toni Kroos. Just ten minutes later, Benzema doubled his and Real Madrid’s tally on the day, as he scored from inside the Celta Vigo box after Kroos had nicked the ball off of a defender.
Heading into half-time, though, Celta Vigo had pulled a goal back courtesy of a fine effort by Santi Mina, who flicked his header over Thibaut Courtois. Post the interval, the hosts had their fair share of chances to pull back on level terms, with Iago Aspas coming the closest to scoring when his free-kick struck the woodwork.
Surely enough, Real Madrid pounced deep into injury time, with Benzema involved again, as his cross was turned in by Marco Asensio to seal all three points. With Barcelona set to take the field on Sunday against Real Sociedad, Los Blancos have moved up to second on the La Liga table for now and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Zinedine Zidane’s men.
Thibaut Courtois: 7/10
He might have conceded one goal, but Courtois was critical in ensuring Real Madrid did not share the spoils with Celta Vigo, making one big save to deny Iago Aspas. Not as precise with the ball at his feet in crunch situations as he ought to have been, though.
Lucas Vazquez: 8/10
Real Madrid’s unsung hero this season added another solid performance to his repertoire. His future at the club may be increasingly uncertain but that is doing nothing to dampen the Spaniard’s performance levels. As ever, he posed a major threat while going down the right flank, but he also defended diligently, helping Raphael Varane out on his side. Superb.
Raphael Varane: 7/10
A solid showing for the most part by Varane, who was Real Madrid’s defensive leader in the absence of Sergio Ramos. With that being said, the Frenchman ought to have done better to mark Mina for the only goal that Celta Vigo scored. Remained trouble-free otherwise while making a staggering 7 clearances.
With Ramos unavailable, Nacho combined with Varane at the heart of the Real Madrid defence and produced a largely commanding display. The Spaniard made 5 clearances while winning 4 duels and completing 3 interceptions. Very little went past him while he also played a big role in effective build-up plays from the back with his precise passing.
Ferland Mendy: 7/10
Not the most eye-catching of displays by Mendy, but this was one of those games when he did not really need to perform that way. The Frenchman was professional in his showing and kept a check on Brais Mendez, winning 4 duels in all. Misplaced just 5 passes all game
Federico Valverde: 7/10
Retaining his place in the side, Valverde continued to impress even if he did not play a major role in ensuring the win over Celta Vigo. The Uruguayan international, though, was efficient in his usage of the ball and even created a couple of chances going down the right flank, where he linked up superbly with Lucas Vazquez. As ever, he also worked hard off the ball, winning 4 duels.
Back into the side after having been unavailable last time out, Casemiro had a distinct presence on the pitch, which ultimately helped Real Madrid control the proceedings in the important junctures of the game. Won 10 duels while making a staggering 6 interceptions in addition to completing 3 clearances and as many tackles. A midfield colossus.
Toni Kroos: 8/10
📊Toni Kroos vs Celta Vigo
Minutes played – 71.
Touches – 64.
Assists – 2.
Key passes – 3.
Accurate passes – 45(93.8%).
Long balls – 6(5).
Big chances created – 1.
Dripple Attempts (succ.) – 1(1).
Ground Duels (won) – 8(5).
Interceptions – 1.
MOTM BEST ITW! #ToniKroos pic.twitter.com/TRCFRC0JlQ
— ToniKroosPlus (@ToniKroosPlus) March 20, 2021
A massive performance by Kroos, who was typically assured with the ball at his feet, misplacing just three passes all game while playing as many key passes. Involved in both the goals that Benzema scored, with the pass for the first being simply sumptuous. Critical for the second as well, as it was Kroos who nicked the ball before Benzema scored. Top-class.
Luka Modric: 7/10
Not as influential as he was earlier in the week against Atalanta. However, despite playing at half a level below those standards, Modric still had a presence on the pitch and combined well with Kroos to pull the strings effortlessly when Real Madrid were on top of the proceedings. Won 5 duels as well.
Vinicius Jr.: 7/10
A typical display by Vinicius Jr. that was riddled with a lot of tireless running and endless work-rate but also a distinct lack of end product. One such moment saw him embark on a lung-busting run only to fluff his lines by failing to find Benzema with a simple cross. Missed one fine chance to score as well, and he really needs to start finishing those.
Karim Benzema: 9/10
The difference-maker on the day. Right now, there is just no stopping Benzema, who made it eight goals in his last six games. The finish for both his goals were simply delightful and his link-up with Kroos and Modric was just delightful all game long. Ended the game with an assist as well. Where would Real Madrid be without him?
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) March 20, 2021
Marco Asensio: 8/10
The Player to Watch in our preview. While he did not start the game, Asensio was given the chance to impress after being introduced with 20 minutes to go. Did not see a lot of action but managed to make a telling impact by scoring the late goal to seal the deal. A goal that is sure to boost his confidence.