A superb free-kick from captain Sergio Ramos helped Real Madrid pick up a 2-0 victory over RCD Mallorca on Wednesday night.
The capital club started brightly, with both Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale forcing Manuel Reina to parry away their respective efforts.
But Real wouldn’t be denied for long, and Vinícius’s close range finish past the goalkeeper put the hosts in front, even after a VAR check for offside. The Brazilian was then unlucky to hit the bar as Los Blancos went very close to doubling their lead before half-time.
After the break, Los Blancos continued to hunt for a second goal, with Benzema stinging the palms of Reina with his left-foot shot. And their second goal finally came through Ramos’ free-kick, with the defender delightfully curling the ball into the top corner.
Mallorca’s best chance of the second-half fell to Ante Budimir, but his close-range header was saved by Courtois, before the hosts played out a comfortable victory to leapfrog Barcelona at the top of the league table. And there was still time for league history to be made, with Luka Romero’s late cameo making him the youngest player to ever appear in La Liga at 15 years old.
Key Talking Point
It was hugely surprising for Zinedine Zidane to choose Gareth Bale to start tonight, given that he seemed to be way down Madrid’s pecking order, even behind James Rodríguez, who was given the start for their last game.
The Welsh winger started on the right flank and showed his intent early on, by cutting inside and firing a left-footed effort that Reina parried away. But it was the closest he got to scoring, as he failed to significantly impact the game. His performance was a stark contrast to the more lively displays of his attacking teammates like Eden Hazard and Vinícius.
Having lost out to Ramos in free-kick duties, he was subbed off in the second-half, visibly frustrated in failing to deliver on his rare starting chance. And with the likes of Marco Asensio and Mariano waiting in the wings, it will certainly be seen as a missed opportunity for Bale to prove his worth to Zidane,
Starting XI: Courtois (6); Carvajal (6), Varane (6), Ramos (7), Mendy (6); Modrić (7), Valverde (6); Bale (6), Hazard (7) , Vinícius (8*); Benzema (6).
Substitutes: Kroos (6), Asensio (6), Isco (6), Brahim Díaz (N/A), Mariano (N/A).
Given his terrific form of late, it wasn’t a surprise to see Vinícius Júnior again be the standout player for Los Blancos.
His pace and superb dribbling was enough to give the Mallorca defence a torrid time, and if not for some poor finishing, he could have scored more than just the one that he got in the first-half.
With performances like this, the young Brazilian is already becoming the star of Los Blancos’ attack – a scary prospect, considering he’s just 20 years old.
Key Talking Point
Like Martin Ødegaard, Takefusa Kubo has enjoyed a productive loan spell away from the Spanish capital this season, with three goals and three assists for Mallorca. And an impressive display would certainly give the watching Zidane something to think about, as the Frenchman continues to plan for Madrid’s future.
The Japanese winger seemed unafraid of taking on the hosts’ defenders, regularly seeking to run at them whenever he had the ball. His drive and energy caught the eye often, and it is easy to see why Real were keen to have him on their books.
Despite the tough task of troubling Los Blancos’ backline, Kubo certainly had a lively game, and will have endeared himself to Zidane even further – possibly even moving himself ahead of his Norwegian counterpart in the loanees’ pecking order.
Starting XI: Reina (7); Valjent (6), Raillo (6), Sedlar (6); Pozo (6), Baba (7), Febas (6), Lago (7); Rodríguez (6), Budimir (7), Kubo (7),
Substitutes: Sevilla (6), Gamez (6), Hernández (6), Salibur (N/A), Romero (N/A).
Every time Mallorca looked to attack Los Blancos, it was Takefusa Kubo who was likely to create something for the away side.
His dribbling was impressive throughout the game, and Mallorca will certainly rely on him to continue playing well to have a chance of getting out of La Liga’s relegation zone.
Los Blancos next travel to face relegation-threatened Espanyol on Sunday, while Mallorca will be away to Athletic Club on Saturday afternoon.