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Following a disappointing 1-1 stalemate against Villarreal in La Liga, defending Spanish champions, Real Madrid, went to Inter Milan to get back to winning ways.
Before kickoff, the 13-time Champions League winners found themselves in the second position in their group, but they barely had any breathing room. Inter, despite being fourth, had the opportunity to leapfrog the Whites with a win, and the probability of seeing it happen looked very real at San Siro — a stadium where Real Madrid hadn’t won — playing 90 minutes of football — in their history.
Fortunately for Zinedine Zidane and the millions of fans across the world, Real Madrid decided to put on a show in Milan on Wednesday night, playing an untouchable brand of scintillating football.
No, they didn’t go on a goal-scoring spree as Bayern Munich did against Barcelona, but they put in the work and got the result they wanted and very desperately needed.
Eden Hazard converted from the spot early in the match, after Nacho Fernandez was brought down inside the area. Lucas Vazquez and Ferland Mendy came agonisingly close to stretching the lead, but Inter managed to hold on, somehow. Inter midfielder, Arturo Vidal saw red for dissent in the first half itself, which made the turnaround even more difficult.
In the second half, Los Blancos substitute Rodrygo latched on to Lucas Vazquez’s cross to double the visitors’ advantage and practically sealed the game. Former Real Madrid full-back, Achraf Hakimi touched the ball as it went in, which, on paper, turned Real’s second goal into a Hakimi own goal.
Here are the three big takeaways from last night’s epic showdown in Italy:
#3 Nacho and Vazquez prove to be invaluable
Nacho and Lucas Vazquez are widely regarded as two of the best benchwarmers in the world right now. They barely get the opportunity to get on the team sheet but rarely disappoint when they do.
Lucas Vazquez was seen running up and down the right flank throughout the 90, keeping the Inter defence on its toes. He even hit the bar in the first half and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. He finished the game with an impressive cross to Rodrygo, which ended up being Real Madrid’s second goal of the night.
Nacho, on the other hand, paired up with Raphael Varane in the absence of Sergio Ramos. He nullified the threat of Romelu Lukaku and looked a prominent threat going forward.
#2 Hazard scores in the Champions League after three years
When Real Madrid broke the bank for Eden Hazard last summer, they expected him to embrace the challenge and make the famed left wing his own. Unfortunately, wrecked by a series of injuries, the player is only starting to get into the groove.
Last night, he was faced with one of the biggest challenges of his budding Real Madrid career. He was tasked to take the fight to an in-form Inter Milan side without the likes of Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos assisting him.
The penalty he converted after seven minutes of play gave him an abundance of confidence going forward. He was spotted leading the Real Madrid attack more often than not and ran the fullbacks ragged. He couldn’t seal another goal, of course, but he must feel relieved after scoring his first goal in the competition since November 2017.
#1 Kroos control, re-imagined
Zinedine Zidane’s decision of playing Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Martin Odegaard paid dividends on Wednesday night, as Antonio Conte’s Inter never quite managed to block their creativity. Odegaard and Modric played a more advanced role, of course, but it was Kroos who never let Inter settle in the game.
Sitting on top of the two centre-backs, the German exploited Inter’s narrow midfield with grace and unmatched precision. The men in blue were forced to drift wide the moment they looked to put pressure on the Real Madrid defence.
His inch-perfect long balls were a thing of beauty, and we believe, Zidane would certainly consider playing Kroos in a deeper role in the future.
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