Riding high on the back of a convincing 4-1 win over Huesca in La Liga, Real Madrid welcomed Champions League group stage rivals, Inter Milan, to the Estadio Alfredo di Stefano Stadium on Tuesday night.
After picking up a solitary point from their opening two fixtures, Real Madrid were desperate to bag their first European win of the campaign. Inter, too, had not tasted victory in the competition and were in need to put their best foot forward.
Zinedine Zidane’s Los Blancos scored the opening two goals in quick succession, thanks to Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos. However, they failed to keep Inter under wraps and allowed the visitors to eat up their two-goal cushion.
Substitute winger, Rodrygo, emerged as a messiah for the hosts, netting the winner with only 10 minutes left to play.
After the third round of fixtures, Borussia Monchengladbach, who picked up a massive 6-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday, sit at the summit. Real Madrid, with four points, are second, while Shakhtar and Inter Milan occupy the third and fourth slots, respectively.
With the brief summary out of the way, let’s look at some of the key points from last night’s nail-biter in Madrid.
#3 Real Madrid’s lacklustre defence
Last season, Zinedine Zidane transformed Real Madrid into the best defence in Europe. Without the attacking threat of Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid needed to put on a stonewall at the back, and Sergio Ramos and company made sure to get their affairs in order.
All the progress they made last season seems to have evaporated this term. They are getting caught on counters every other minute and are having to rely on Thibaut Courtois’ brilliance to get out of jail.
On Tuesday, Inter Milan created a bucketload of chances, from all areas, running Real Madrid ragged. And had they been a little more clinical, the outcome could’ve been very different.
The return of the first-choice right-back, Dani Carvajal, could inject some confidence into the defence, but we’re not sure if the whole system would fix itself with a single personnel change.
#2 A night to forget for Eden Hazard
When Real Madrid broke the bank for Eden Hazard, last summer, they expected the former Chelsea man to own the iconic number 7 jersey. His exceptional spell for the Blues promised plenty, of course, but the on-field performances, so far, have hardly been convincing.
After playing a crucial role in the victory against Huesca, Hazard was tipped to be more confident against Inter Milan. Sadly for the hosts, he forgot to put on his shooting boots on Tuesday.
There were some moments of Hazard magic; some runs and some flicks to put everyone’s minds at ease. However, no Real Madrid talisman can get away with so little involvement.
The Belgian international tried a few exchanges but most of them failed to have any significant impact. He also didn’t manage to take a jab at Samir Handanovic’s goal and cut a frustrating figure up top.
He was marked heavily by Antonio Conte’s men, but a player of his calibre is expected to brush off the regular challenges.
#1 Three points and nothing more for Real Madrid
Last night’s win allowed Real Madrid to move to second place in their Champions League group, albeit only on goal difference. The pressure has been eased for the time being, but Zinedine Zidane isn’t likely to be satisfied with his team’s performance.
Real Madrid, on Tuesday night, did walk away with maximum points, but there wasn’t much to praise.
From Sergio Ramos’ mediocre performance to Toni Kroos’ unimaginative passing, the whole team lacked direction and venom. The game improved a little after the introduction of Brazilian duo, Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo, but that was primarily down to their individual quality — not team effort.
In three weeks, Real Madrid will make the trip to Inter Milan, hoping to get a foothold in the group. That night, they’d need to be a lot more convincing than they were on Tuesday.
That night, they’d need to make sure that everyone turns up and pull in the same direction — not a couple of youngsters playing their hearts out.