After a frustrating week, which includes defeat against a third-tier side, the roster against Deportivo Alaves seemed an uphill task. But thankfully, the outcome was brilliant as Real Madrid smashed 4 goals after 18 matches at the Estadio Mendizorrotza in Vitoria.
Los Blancos shook off their three-match winless streak, which included defeats in the Supercopa de Espana and Copa del Rey, with one of their best performances of the season, led by Karim Benzema, who scored a pair of goals.
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) January 24, 2021
Joining the veteran striker on the scoresheet was Casemiro and Eden Hazard to help Real Madrid collect a badly-needed three points to remain second in the La Liga Santander table.
With Zinedine Zidane absent due to COVID, trusted assistant David Bettoni was the man in charge on the bench. Lucas Vazquez slotted in at right-back, while Ferland Mendy returned to the left-back position. Eder Militao was chosen to pair with Raphael Varane at center-back with Sergio Ramos out, and in the attack, it was the duo of Hazard and Benzema along with Marco Asensio.
It was a strong side, even though the presence of Hazard was always ominous these days.
Alaves attempted to press, but the lack of intensity came as a blessing for Real Madrid, who gradually set free and started to create opportunities.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) January 23, 2021
Real Madrid advanced with an attacking intent – The first big chance came Real Madrid’s way with a superb pass from Luka Modric to Karim Benzema, who was unable to finish past Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco.
Benzema hit the post and Toni Kroos hitting the keeper hinted that it could be the night of Real Madrid coming back into their best.
? | Only Karim Benzema (15) has scored more goals than Casemiro (5) for Real Madrid in all competitions this season. pic.twitter.com/UMp0FuV4hU
— ?????? (@ReaIMadridOnly) January 23, 2021
The resulting corner from those efforts led to Casemiro scoring from a header. He was left unchecked and Madrid were off and running.
Real Madrid notched their second of the night in style, with Toni Kroos playing in a ball that was delicately back-heeled by Hazard, falling for Benzema, whose right-footed finish was never in doubt to make it 0-2.
At the fag end of the first-half a great work from Kroos, who took advantage of some slack play from the Alaves defence and picked out Hazard, who calmly stroked in a shot past Pacheco to extend the lead to 0-3.
— Karim Benzema (@Benzema) January 23, 2021
After the break, Alaves looked a tad better and were rewarded just shy of the hour mark, as a powerful header from Joselu off a free-kick beat Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to make it 1-3.
Vinicius Junior came on for Hazard.
Alaves remained on the front foot and grew in belief, but those comebacks hopes were quickly extinguished with an exquisite pass from Modric to Benzema down the left-wing and Real Madrid’s striker did the rest, with a cut to his right and a wicked right-footer that rippled the net for a 1-4 lead.
?| Only Benzema, Casemiro and Modrić have scored more goals than Hazard this season. #rmalive
— Madrid Zone (@theMadridZone) January 23, 2021
A dominating victory and the Los Blancos were brilliant in the midfield.
Modric and Kroos ran the show in the center of the park, while Casemiro did what he always does – maintained the balance between the midfield and back. He demonstrated how valuable he can be in both halves of the pitch, providing sturdy defensive cover for his back four and coming up with a goal.
Militao played the role of a leader at the back in absence of Ramos and covered the shakiness of Real Madrid at the back along with Casemiro. Militao looked confident and settled enough.
Eden Hazard has both scored and assisted in an away league game for Real Madrid for the first time.
The last time he did so was in Chelsea colours (Dec 2018 vs. Brighton). pic.twitter.com/T3QSOHI8pQ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 23, 2021
Then Lucas Vazquez deputized well for the absent Dani Carvajal at right-back, contributing in both defence and attack. When Odriozola came on for Asensio, he moved up to right-wing. That is why Zidane always preferred Vazquez – the Spaniard is an allrounder and comfortable playing in various positions.
Hazard scored after ages, but at the cost of Asensio, who was sifted to right and which never really brought the best out of him.
Overall, it was a great come back – a much needed for the Royal Whites.