From 1-to-90, this match was a roller-coaster. Against a fired-up opponent in a packed Estadi Ciutat in Valencia, Real Madrid looked in control for the majority of the first half. Levante defended in a 5-4-1 without the ball, but didn’t unnerve Real Madrid’s ball-carriers, and allowed Zidane’s men to control the tempo with nice build-up play, and some particularly nice combination-passing from Benzema and Marcelo on the left flank to create constant danger.
Along the way, there were kinks. Marcelo’s defensive gambling continues to be a problem, as it was in the first half; and his touches offensively (which eventually normalized as he grew into the game), weren’t great in the final third. He was uncharacteristically bad with his execution early on when he had plenty of space to work with at the far-post. Cristiano Ronaldo too, had his problems. If not for his mis-control and poor finishing after receiving some great key passes from Karim Benzema and Bale, Real Madrid would’ve built on their one-goal lead (on a goal, by the way, which came from a Ramos set-piece — the first one he’s scored since Om Arvind wrote an article about his set-piece scoring last season).
But just before the half-time whistle, Levante’s Morales made a brilliant run in-behind Ramos, completely losing Sergio in the process. He was through on goal, and although Keylor Navas brilliantly saved the initial shot, the rebound fell to Boateng, who finished the chance as Ramos wasn’t in a position to block the shot from heading into the empty net.
The second half was a back-and-forth, end-to-end fight. Real Madrid had the majority of the chances, but Levante also threatened on the counter. As the usual theme goes this season, it didn’t take much for Levante to slice through Real Madrid’s frail transition defending, and it took some last ditch tackling from Real Madrid’s defensive line to keep the score level.
Real Madrid kept knocking though. They finally broke through after some patient build-up from Modric and Carvajal, who found Benzema in the box to make some quick work and find a wide-open Isco who buried the chance. (Yes, Madridistas, you’re allowed to celebrate a goal created by Benzema and Isco.)
Real Madrid was crazy-lucky not to concede almost immediately, to be sure. Levante had a flurry of chances, and nearly scored at the far-post as Keylor could do nothing but hope the chance went wide. Thankfully, it did.
But that luck didn’t last long. Pazzini scored in the 89th minute, as Levante took advantage of more shambolic defending. No excuse for this. If you’re up 2-1, you need to zip up defensively