Real Madrid earned a gritty 3-0 victory over a persistent Elche side, as Gareth Bale earned his tenth league goal of the season.
Asier Illarramendi put Los Blancos up in the first thirty minutes from his deflected shot outside the box. Unlucky for Elche in truth, but their persistent pressure, grit, and confidence allowed to keep it 1-0 until the second half.
It wasn’t until Bale’s fantastic bullet of a shot to put his team up 2-0 that allowed Ancelotti’s men to breathe. Up until the goal, the Welshman was performing far below par. Again, it looks as if he has not found his role where he can incorporate his individuality as well as his effectiveness on the wing. Quickly after his goal, however; Bale’s last twenty minutes were much more positive.
Isco was substituted in the dying minutes of the match and ended up knocking in a goal to make it 3-0. The result for Real Madrid is perfect for multiple reasons: one, they put pressure on Barcelona and Athletico Madrid to grab maximum points, and two, they continue important momentum in La Liga. Additionally, Los Balncos’ defense continues to improve and produce clean sheets.
Here are two things to take from Real Madrid’s victory today:
1) Depth Proving Vital for Real Madrid
With Cristiano Ronaldo out for tonight’s match against Elche (he will make his return against city-rivals Athletico Madrid next weekend), Ancelotti’s men, once again, responded well without him. Jese resumed duties on the left wing, while Bale assumed his position on the right wing. Another player who was out for suspension was the brilliant Croatian, Luka Modric. (He, too, will return for next weekend’s Athletico Madrid clash) And in the back line, Sergio Ramos was rested to give Raphael Varane minutes.
Of course, Real Madrid’s depth has always been there; however, it is Ancelotti’s guidance and decisions that has facilitated the great chemistry shared between all players. For example, the pairing of Illarramendi and Alonso, once again, was a success. With Modric out for this weekend’s league match, Illara proved to the Madrid faithful that he definitely looks like Alonso’s successor.
Throughout the game, the young Spaniard kept his cool, provided pin-point passes, and at times, provided trickery against Elche’s players. Additionally, Varane filled in for Ramos centrally in the defense and had no problems throughout the match. It will be important to continue to give the young Frenchman minutes, just in case Pepe or Ramos picks up an injury or suspension during the remainder of the season.
2.) Benzema’s Resurgence
Detractors of Big-Benz can have no reason to continue their criticism, anymore. Benzema’s performances in the new year have been fantastic. With fourteen goals and six assists in the league (second both in goals and assists for Real Madrid), Benzema has provided the performances of an effective striker during the second half of the season.
Arguments made against the Frenchman vary from his work ethics or his lethargic passing, but, in truth, his passing and link up plays are his strengths. According to Squawka, his average pass accuracy is a solid 82%. Most of these passes are simple, which support his game: usual one-two passes to open himself up for a cross, or to be slipped in against goalkeepers.
In today’s match, he did not get on the scoresheet, but he had multiple chances to score. In the beginning of tonight’s match, his passing was accurate and purposeful. Even if he did not score, it’s important to carry his form into this week’s Champions League clash against FC Schalke 04.
Real Madrid and Ancelotti have assured fans this season one thing: they will not commit follies in ‘small games.’ Nor will they let up defensively, as we saw under Mourinho. For now, Los Blancos sit atop the table, but not for long. Barcelona and Athletico Madrid will continue to make La Liga down to the wire. This season, moreover, we have witnessed that no game is straightforward. Big teams drop points, as lower tabled teams teams continue to surprise. If we have learned anything this season it’s that David can, indeed, topple Goliath.