Highlights & Recap: Athletic Bilbao 1-3 Real Madrid Femenino
Real Madrid played their best game since the international break in their complete 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao away from home. Here are my immediate thoughts and highlights from the game. Player ratings and the post-match podcast will follow.
- David Aznar picked an eleven which seemed to indicate a return to relative normality after much experimentation with 4-2-3-1 and Marta Corredera securing minutes on offense. But it quickly became clear that the formation was not the expected 4-3-3. Instead of looking to receive on the sideline, Sofia Jakobsson and Marta Cardona positioned themselves extremely narrow, occupying the entire defensive line threatening the channels. This allowed Kosovare Asllani to drop off and look for a space between Athletic Club’s passive 4-4-2 in the middle of the block. In order to keep the width, full-backs Olga Carmona and Kenti Robles advanced aggressively. Maite Oroz and Teresa Abelleira controlled deeper areas and Aurélie Kaci traversed the half-space in relation to the movement of Cardona and Kenti.
- The discipline of Cardona and Jakobsson and the team’s commitment to maintaining good spacing was unexpected and had not been seen in previous iterations of the 4-4-2 Diamond (or 4-3-3 with a false nine – same difference). Previously, the use of wingers as inside attackers led to a disconnect between player tendencies and the intended role, resulting in inadequate occupation of the defensive line and delayed progression. The day’s tactical reversal saw some of the best footballers Madrid have played all season – most certainly since the international break.
- In the 11th minute, Real Madrid struck. Marta Cardona, who looked more comfortable than Sofia in this pattern, got inside on the U-turn and sprayed a wide pass to Olga. The left-back quickly put a cross in the box, which Kenti picked up and inverted for a cut. Cardona continued his run and met the delivery. The deflected shot put the keeper on the sidelines and allowed Asllani to send a rebound off the weak save.
- Feeling clearly, Cardona came back in goal form with an absolute stunner. Words can’t do the goal justice, so just watch:
- Real Madrid are also pressed from a diamond shape; Cardona and Jakobsson harassed the center-backs while Asllani kept an eye on the pivot. Any vertical pass beyond the front three would be attacked by one of the Kaci, Maite and Teresa. Madrid were so determined to stay within their structure that they even kept it in deeper contexts, giving themselves a good counterattack threat but also leaving their full-backs somewhat isolated defensively.
- It was the application of high pressure that allowed Las Blancas to get off to an excellent start in the second half. Maite Oroz stole possession and fired a blocked shot which Kaci recovered and put away with aplomb.
- Of course, when things were going so well, Madrid had to concede for no reason. Ivana failed to control a cross and Lucía García got the consolation goal.
- At least she’s a Madrilenian!
- Athletic Bilbao started targeting Olga more with wing combinations and a marauding rear, but they lacked extended spells on the ball to get the most out of this strategy.
- In the 68th minute, Aznar packed his successful tactical experience by substituting Marta Corredera and Lorena Navarro for Teresa Abelleira and Sofia Jakobsson, respectively. The formation changed to a 4-2-3-1, with Corredera functioning as a left winger.
- Jessica Martínez replaced Cardona in the 80th minute before Claudia Florentino replaced Olga ten minutes later and Madrid saw the rest of the game without too much of an incident.