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Immediate response: Athletic Club 0-1 Real Madrid

Athletic Club lose against real Madrid 0-1 (Sergio Ramos). Here is our quick response. Still to be expected: player ratings, post-game quotes, post-game podcast, C-Tricks tactical column and more.

* Every match report ends with a winning goal from Sergio Ramos. *

It reached 28 degrees today at an early start in San Mames between Athletic Club and Real Madrid. This early kick-off, combined with the heat, could probably explain some of the sluggishness we saw on the pitch in the first half.

This sluggishness didn’t necessarily correlate with the entertainment value of the game – one with many tactical folds to disassemble and enough holes for certain people to adapt to the occasion. There was no better example of this than Real Madrid’s biggest defensive weakness in the first half: Iñaki Williams ran dangerously halfway between Sergio Ramos and Marcelo. Marcelo spent most of his position in half of Athletic, and Ramos chased Iñaki unusually sloppy, leaving him behind. In this game, Eder Militao was a master at getting to the left to improve coverage. (This line of action contained much more than I suggested, which we’ll break down in today’s podcast.)

Attacking was the biggest hurdle in creating opportunities, especially: having a sufficiently diverse repertoire to get Athletic out of its comfort zone. With Asensio on the left and Rodrygo on the right, there was no interchangeability between them. Rodrygo was sometimes deeper than Carvajal and had difficulty getting into the first frame. Most of Real Madrid’s attack was directed over the left side, where Marcelo and Asensio were. Asensio played with a jump and played dangerous diagonal balls into the box. The combination of Marcelo and Asensio together was less efficient because the passes between them were out of sync. Athletic planning for the obvious: being in the right places to outperform Benzema in the pits and eliminate the danger.

Things moved in the second half. Rodrygo took a more active role in the offensive. He recorded the players in a good clip and had dangerous line-wrap sequences in combination with Carvajal and Benzema – dribbling into the box, playing 1-2s and diagonal passes for Real Madrid attackers in the box.

In the second half, it became more and more urgent as the realization of a tie penetrated the team’s collective nervous system. Marcelo continued to play on the left and a sprint to get to the ball before Dani Garcia earned a well-earned penalty in the penalty area.

Here is the planned part of the article where Sergio Ramos scores after 70 minutes:

Ramos scored his 22nd penalty in a row and Real Madrid came one step closer to an overdue championship title. Look forward to today’s podcast.

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