Valverde, Rodrygo prove too much for Mallorca

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MADRID — Real Madrid continued their 100% start to the season with a come-from-behind victory at home to Mallorca.

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The visitors shocked the LaLiga and European champions by taking the lead in the 35th minute through Vedat Muriqi, but they couldn’t hold on to the advantage until the interval as Federico Valverde scored a brilliant equaliser in the third minute of stoppage time.

Report: Real Madrid 4-1 Mallorca | LaLiga table | Upcoming fixtures

Vinicius Junior put Carlo Ancelotti’s men in front in the 72nd minute, and the flattering 4-1 victory was sealed in the final moments with goals from Rodrygo and Antonio Rudiger.

JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Post-match quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures


Rapid reaction

1. Valverde is Madrid’s unsung midfield hero

He might not get as much attention and praise as Luka Modric, Toni Kroos or — more recently — new addition Aurelien Tchouameni, but Valverde is an increasingly important and influential member of this Real Madrid team.

Valverde has always offered a no-nonsense, ego-free attitude and tireless workrate, but now he’s adding consistent end product to his game too. Just look at his contributions over the last few weeks.

Here, with Madrid 1-0 down and finding it difficult to break through Mallorca’s five-man backline and deep defensive block, Valverde took matters into his own hands, cutting inside and blasting a shot past goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic to level before half-time.

The strike followed an assist for Vinicius against Celtic in the Champions League in midweek, another assist against Real Betis in LaLiga last weekend, and a goal against Celta Vigo on Aug. 20.

All of that comes, of course, after he set up Vinicius for the only goal of the game against Liverpool in the Champions League final in May. Valverde started here in a deeper, more central role than the position he has tended to occupy on the right wing this season — being asked to help Kroos in the midfield engine room — but he still managed to step up with the crucial equaliser.

It’s getting harder and harder for manager Carlo Ancelotti to leave him out.

2. Hazard flops in audition as Benzema’s understudy

Another opportunity missed for Eden Hazard. Karim Benzema‘s injury in midweek had given the Belgian — anointed by Ancelotti as this season’s backup No. 9 — yet another chance to prove that this could finally, finally be his year.

His performance off the bench against Celtic had been encouraging, scoring and assisting in his 60 minutes on the pitch. Here he lasted a similar amount of time before being withdrawn, making little impact and never really looking likely to add to his four goals scored in three years in LaLiga.

Hazard showed flashes of quality. His touch and off-the-ball movement remain good, although he often doesn’t appear in sync with teammates more used to the style of Benzema. He was mostly frustrated though by Mallorca’s packed defence, dropping deeper and deeper to try to get involved in the game.

Perhaps Ancelotti feels this is the only feasible role for Hazard, given his loss of pace and Vinicius’ electric form on the left, but it’s hard to see why Rodrygo — who scored in a superb performance here — or even Mariano wouldn’t be a more effective Plan B at centre forward.

3. Mallorca’s front two cause problems for Madrid’s defence

Mallorca’s prospects of staying up this season will depend on the form of their exciting front two: Muriqi and Lee Kang-In. Muriqi, an old-fashioned battering-ram of a striker, has been a revelation since joining on loan from Lazio in January and already has three goals this season, while former Valencia prospect Kang-In looks like he’s now fulfilling his early promise.

They weren’t always easy for Madrid’s defence — which was lacking the injured Eder Militao — to cope with. The home side got an early scare when Muriqi got away from Rudiger, who was making his first start at the Bernabeu a month into the new season, inside the first minute and Thibaut Courtois was forced to intervene.

Madrid were also badly caught out by Mallorca’s opener. Lee’s free-kick delivery found Muriqi at the far post after he had got away from marker Ferland Mendy and his header beat Courtois. It didn’t matter in the end, with Madrid running out comfortable winners thanks to those late goals from Rodrygo and Rudiger, but there are still questions about exactly where the latter fits into this team when everyone is fit.


Player ratings

Real Madrid: Thibaut Courtois 6; Lucas Vazquez 6, Antonio Rudiger 7, David Alaba 6, Ferland Mendy 6; Toni Kroos 7, Fede Valverde 8, Dani Ceballos 7; Rodrygo Goes 8, Vinicius Junior 8, Eden Hazard 5.
Subs: Luka Modric 6, Nacho Fernandez 6, Eduardo Camavinga 6, Dani Carvajal 7.

Mallorca: Predrag Rajkovic 5; Pablo Maffeo 6, Martin Valjent 7, Antonio Raillo 6, Matija Nastasic 5, Jaume Costa 5; Rodrigo Battaglia , Inigo De Galarreta 6, Dani Rodriguez 6; Lee Kang-In 7, Vedat Muriqi 8.
Subs: Iddrisu Baba 6, Antonio Sanchez 6, Clement Grenier 6, Abdon Prats 5, Lago Junior 5.


Best and worst performers

BEST: Rodrygo, Real Madrid

Visibly growing as a player week after week. A goal and assist here. Surely it’s worth giving him a try through the middle in Benzema’s absence?

WORST: Rajkovic, Mallorca

Started well but ended up conceding four times, and would have liked to have done much better with Rudiger’s goal.


Highlights and notable moments


After the match: What the managers, players said

Ancelotti on the game:

“The goals, they were great quality, all three goals (Valverde, Vinicius, Rodrygo). Rodrygo and Vinicius combined well for his goal, it was important to go ahead, and after that it was easier. It was complicated with the heat and the fact we conceded a set piece, all predictable but in the end we kept cool heads and little-by-little we came back into the game and won.”

Ancelotti on the Valverde:

“Being a leader is when you’re a role model and Federico is a very important player for us, he’s doing well, he’s very humble … Leaders by example and not with words, that’s important.”

Ancelotti on the front three:

“The idea was to move Hazard out of the position of centre forward for others to move in. Valverde did it once, it could be Rodrygo, Vinicius, we played sideways too slowly and I wanted to change that. I had the idea to put Rodrygo at centre forward.”

Ancelotti on Hazard:

“It was difficult in the first half not because Hazard was at centre forward. It was difficult because the position when he dropped off wasn’t occupied by the others. In the future I have the same idea, sometimes I could play with Rodrygo at centre-forward, or Hazard at centre forward with Rodrygo out wide. It’s harder to do it with Valverde out wide.”


Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

Of Vinicius’ 42 career goals with Real Madrid, 32 have been while playing as left winger, while 5 came as left attacking midfielder, 4 as left mid and 1 as centre forward.

Vinicius has scored in 5 straight games in all competitions, extending the longest streak of his career

Dani Ceballos‘ assist is his first goal contribution in league play for Real Madrid since 2019. He breaks a streak of 16 league games without a goal contribution.


Up next

Real Madrid: Ancelotti’s side will continue the defence of their Champions League title with a home game against RB Leipzig, who recorded an impressive 3-0 win at home to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday after a troubled start to the season. There is then the small matter of the Madrid derby against Atletico at the Metropolitano Stadium next Sunday before the two-week international break.

Mallorca: With no European action, Mallorca have just the one match before the UEFA Nations League returns for two weeks. They will host Almeria on Saturday.



#Valverde #Rodrygo #prove #Mallorca

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