MADRID’S PERFECT START FOR NEW YEAR

Let’s all take a minute and tip our caps to Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian goalkeeper produced three world class saves in the first half to spare Madrid’s blushes. Getafe were far the better team. As expected, they were relentless in their press. The effort and attitude from Bordalas’ team is always to be admired. Real Madrid suffered and failed to produce any sort of rhythm. The boys in white could barely get out of their own half.

There were individual battles all over the pitch – Bale vs Nyom, Cucurella vs Carvajal, and Benzema vs Djene among the high profile contests. Nyom was physical and combative with Bale. The tension between the two was palpable and nearly always ended in a foul for one or the other. Cucurella was a pest. He constantly hounded Carvajal and Modric and forced countless loose passes. The Kroos – Modric – Casemiro midfield was a shadow of what was formely the best midfield in the world from 2014-2017. They were completely overrun by Getafe. How many times did Luka Modric lose the ball or giveaway a needless foul? Sadly his decline has been apparent since last season and though there has been sporadic matches showing improvement, the Croatian is no longer built for physically intensive contests.

In all honesty, the best chances were produced by Getafe. They out shot Madrid by 8 – 2 in the first stanza. Set pieces have consistently been one of Getafe’s strong points over the last two seasons and their best opportunity came from a recycled set-piece. The ball filtered its way to the top of the box where Arambarri was left wide open. The midfielder smashed a volley which forced Courtois into his first of many top class saves. Again, without the Belgian, this game may have told a different story.

Completely against the run of play, Real Madrid took the lead about a half hour into the match. Kroos whipped in a free kick which missed all Real Madrid player’s heads, but found its way back to the outside of the box where Ferland Mendy was lurking. The left back took a touch and set himself up on his weaker right foot. He then produced a beautiful cross for his compatriot, Varane, to get on the end of and ultimately score. David Soria, the Getafe goalkeeper, came needlessly off his line – missing the punch – and allowing Varane’s header to trickle into the net.

No changes were made at half, but Madrid managed to score just seven minutes after the break. It was the team in white, not blue, who managed to capitalize on a set-piece. Toni Kroos curled in an inch-perfect pass to the center of the box which Varane headed home, scoring his second goal of the match. While we are on the topic of Raphael Varane, he is another we should tip our cap to tonight. He was immense in the back, shutting down Mata and Angel, sent two brilliant long balls up to Benzema and Bale which were nearly converted into goals, and then obviously scored two himself. It was a captain’s like performance from Varane.

After Madrid took a two goal lead what remained of the second half was a cagey affair with no side really dominating. Zidane tried to freshen the team up with the introductions of Fede Valverde for Kroos and Vinicius JR for Isco. The final substitution saw Luka Jovic enter the match for Karim Benzema. Though it was Getafe who never stopped in their pursuit of a goal. But, the backline, particularly Varane and Militao, prevented any shots from the Getafe attack late in the match. Overall, the second half was an improvement for Madrid.

After three draws where Madrid played well enough to win, they produced a performance today where they were the inferior team, though they managed to get the three points. Zidane and the squad will leave the south of Madrid happy with the result, but aware that there is plenty to improve upon in the new year.

Luka Modric scored Madrid’s third goal, after a lung bursting run down the right flank from Valverde who unselfishly passed the ball to his Croatian teammate.

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