Real Madrid had to suffer once more before eventually closing out a 2-0 victory away at Levante, to temporarily go top of La Liga.
With no first choice right back available, Zinedine Zidane chose Nacho Fernandez to fill that void, and went for a tradition 4-3-3 with Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior starting next to Karim Benzema. The first chance arrived for the defending champions in the opening minute when Luka Modric pulled it back to Benzema, but the Frenchman wasn’t sharp enough to get ahead of his marker for what would have been a tap-in.
Madrid continued moving the ball about with no real end product, until the quarter of an hour mark. From a Modric corner, the ball found its way to an unmarked Vinicius, and with the time afforded to him by the Levante defenders, the Brazilian curled in the opener into the far corner for his second go-ahead goal in as many games.
That lead could have been doubled soon after. Vinicius and Modric involved again, the Croatian playing through the Brazilian, but Vini’s final ball to Benzema was too heavy and the chance breaks down. That missed chance could have been punished immediately, as Nikola Vukčević’ header smashed the bar from a José Campaña corner kick as the hosts woke up at the half hour mark.
Casemiro then ventured forward, but his lovely clip to the back post wasn’t finished by Benzema, who instead of hitting the target, looked to head it back across goal for Asensio, but failed in that attempt.
Intensity was the issue, both collectively and individually, and that’s what changed in the opening 10-15 minutes of the second half. A gift from goalkeeper Aitor Fernández meant Benzema had a chance on the plate, but the Frenchman’s effort struck the post, extending his goalless record to over 300 minutes.
Two minutes later, Vinicius was played in by Asensio, who’s shot from an angle sailed wide of the far post. And then moments later, Benzema and Vinicius combined with a nice one-two, before Vinicius missed his opportunity to double his and Madrid’s tally from point blank range.
That was three chances for Madrid within six minutes, and having seen them not taken, must have shaken Levante into action. Head coach Paco Lopez made some structural changes in midfield, and with them, the hosts came back into the tie.
Thibaut Courtois was relatively quiet up until the hour mark, but was called into action when Enis Bardhi’s effort from the edge of the box deflected off Casemiro, and despite being wrong-footed, the Belgian goalkeeper made a terrific stop with his legs.
Ramos then had the ball in the back of the net, but after a long VAR review, the referee decided he had fouled his marker in the process of heading it in. After that, there was a period of 15 minutes where Madrid were hanging on. Wave after wave of attack from Levante, and Madrid were struggling to contain the home side, but eventually did, with a few more saves from Courtois for good measure.
In stoppage time, Benzema put an end to his goalless streak. Rodrygo Goes with the through ball, and with the last kick of the game, Benzema doubled Madrid’s lead and clinched the win. That gives Madrid 10 points out of a possible 12 from their opening four games with three wins on the bounce.
Up next for Real Madrid?
Who? Cadiz CF
When? Sunday 18th October
Where? Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano