Real Madrid bounced back from a disappointing week which saw them exit two cup competitions, to beat Deportivo Alaves 4-1 at La Mendizorroza, courtesy of a strong first half performance.
With Zinedine Zidane at home having tested positive for Covid-19, his assistant David Bettoni was on the touchline. Although Madrid found it tough to get going, Ferland Mendy was the team’s outlet early-on.
A few good overlapping runs down the left from the Frenchman, although nothing serious coming out of it. As was the first chance for the hosts, Martin had it when a cross in from the left fell kindly to him, but his first-time strike flashed wide of Thibaut Courtois.
Around the quarter of an hour mark, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos had settled and began dictating. The Croatian’s lovely ball over the top of the Alaves defence found Karim Benzema, who took a touch and swiveled before his first shot was saved by Fernando Pacheco, and his second shot was rebounded onto the post. From the resulting corner, Real took the lead with Casemiro’s header from Kroos’ delivery.
Once they were ahead, they began having fun. Modric this time with a beautiful trivela to play in Mendy who was one on one, but instead of shooting he chose to cut it back to Benzema and the chance was gone. Another chance came and went, this time Lucas Vazquez and Eden Hazard combined, with the Belgian getting the return pass and his left-footed shot went comfortably wide.
Before the break, they totally shattered the home side. Hazard was playing a lot closer to Benzema, and the Belgian’s flick to his strike-partner led to the second, with Benzema taking a touch before firing a shot into the top corner. And then in first half stoppage time, Hazard was on the scoresheet too. Kroos won the ball back, and his through-ball found Hazard over the top, the former Chelsea man controlled it beautifully before putting it past Pacheco to make it 3-0 at half-time.
Abelardo Fernández – who took charge of just his third game since returning – made three changes at the break, and Alaves were far better in midfield. They came out of the blocks faster too, Joselu with a great strike which forced a corner out of Courtois. And before the hour mark, Eder Militao gave away a cheap free-kick, and from it, Joselu scored his fifth in six games against Real with a powerful header from a Lucas Perez set-piece.
Were Real about to throw away a lead? Benzema made sure they wouldn’t. Modric picked him out in a nice transition out of their own box, and Benzema carried the ball before cutting back past Martin, and rifling it past a helpless Pacheco to put the win beyond any doubt.
A solid performance by Madrid, but still question marks over how well they perform over the full 90 minutes. The lack of midfielders could also come back to bite the club and Zidane, but they’re back to within four points of Atletico Madrid, though the league leaders still have two games in hand.
Up next for Real Madrid?
Who? Levante CF
When? Saturday 30th January @ 16:15 CET
Where? Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, Madrid