Federico Valverde impresses, Marcelo struggles again as Madrid draw with Leganes
Real Madrid's slow and tortuous end to 2018-19 continued with a very underwhelming 1-1 La Liga draw at near neighbours Leganes on Monday evening.
Just six games left now in 2018-19, and then the "changes" that coach Zinedine Zidane keeps talking about can start to actually take place. While this is not how Madrid had hoped to be starting a Champions League quarter-final week, 1-1 is not such a bad result, considering Leganes had beaten Barcelona and drawn with Atletico Madrid at their tidy Butarque ground earlier this term.
Another bad first half from Madrid saw them unsurprisingly behind at the break, having created just one real chance themselves during the opening 45 minutes.
Issues defending set pieces showed again as Middlesbrough loanee Martin Braithwaite should really have opened scoring before left-back Jonathan Silva took advantage of more sloppy defending to make it 1-0 just before the break.
Trips next week to more local rivals Getafe and Rayo Vallecano bring the possibility of further embarrassment.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Much of the positivity brought by Zidane's return last month is wearing off, with no clear idea yet emerging of what the former Galactico plans for his second spell as coach. For a second consecutive game an apparent half-time rocket from the boss saw his players improve on sluggish starts, with Karim Benzema sharply scoring within seconds of the restart. After that, they soon slipped back down into second gear.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Keylor Navas, 7 -- Could not do anything for Silva's well-placed opener, and was otherwise untroubled. Some dodgy kicking off the ground brought jeers from a home crowd more eager to enjoy the occasion than Madrid were to provide them with entertainment.
DF Dani Carvajal, 7 -- Returning from injury at his home-suburb club, he raided forward well from right-back, and was the most assured performer of the back four -although that does not say too much.
DF Raphael Varane, 6 -- Another performance which does not help the argument that he deserves more respect as a World Cup winner, he was lucky to be bailed out by Casemiro after being given the slip by Leganes substitute Youssef En Nesyri.
DF Nacho, 6 -- Struggled, especially in the air against Leganes' strapping ex-Southampton centre-forward Guido Carrillo, and was relieved to see the flag go up when En-Nesyri slipped behind him and netted what could have been a late winner.
DF Marcelo, 6 -- No real howlers this time but the idea of giving the club Vice-captain a chance to play himself back into form is not working so far. Zidane leaving leaving youngster Sergio Reguilon out of the match squad completely was difficult to understand.
MF Luka Modric, 7 -- Looks understandably in need of a rest, his dwelling on the ball on one occasion in the first half allowing Leganes to break dangerously. Was Madrid's best player in their best spell in the 15 minutes after the break, providing an incisive pass to Benzema for the equaliser and a curled cross which almost brought a second goal for the Frenchman.
MF Federico Valverde, 8 -- The 21-year-old continued his progress, stepping in for stomach bug victim Toni Kroos, adding more work rate and useful interventions in his own penalty area, as well as some raking crossfield passes and bursts forward in possession. Booked when he had to cover back with Marcelo caught out of position again.
MF Casemiro, 6 -- Dropped back to provide the help his centre-backs needed against Leganes' physical front two, but did not cover the ground with quite the same energy as his younger midfield counterpart.
FW Isco, 6 -- Some positive signs of a return to sharpness early as Isco drifted in from a left-wing position and zipped the ball around really nicely to find gaps in Leganes back five. Soon drifted out of the game for long periods, though and was unsurprisingly among those replaced.
FW Karim Benzema, 7 -- Clearly managing his energy after a long season, Benzema was not often involved, but what he did he did very well. Showed razor-sharp finishing to equalise after his first shot was pushed out by keeper Ivan Cuellar. Now up to 27 goals in all comps, 18 in La Liga, this season.
FW Marco Asensio, 7 -- Among the livelier of Madrid's players, he should really have scored when played in first by Isco and then Benzema only to be twice denied by Cuellar. Booked for throwing out an arm when unable to escape attentions of his tigerish marker Silva.
FW Lucas Vazquez, N/R -- Zidane's first sub came with just 15 minutes remaining, Vazquez was mostly seen gesturing in frustration to the referee when a few decisions went against him.
FW Gareth Bale, N/R -- A 10-minute run for the much-criticised Welsh Galactico, with one neat involvement starting a move which saw Marcelo denied a late winner by Cuellar.