Real Madrid returned to the top of the La Liga table with a comeback 2-1 victory at home to Mallorca on Sunday.
Two brilliantly taken goals from Federico Valverde and Vinicius Junior ensured Real maintained their 100% start to the league season, despite falling behind in the first half.
Carlo Ancelotti made a handful of changes to his side following their midweek Champions League win and at times looked somewhat clunky for it, but ultimately showed their talent to see off Mallorca, who caused the defending La Liga champions problems on the counter attack.
The visitors had a golden opportunity to take the lead from a long ball inside the first minute of play, with Vedat Muriqi getting in behind and forcing a low save out of Thibaut Courtois.
Real dominated possession after the early scare, with Mallorca happy to sit in deep and absorb the pressure as best they could. The hosts couldn’t break through the block, though, resorting to wayward shots from distance which simply didn’t trouble Predrag Rajkovic in the Mallorca goal enough.
When Los Blancos upped the tempo of their passing and pushed on their full backs, they began to find space and a fine layoff from Valverde into Rodrygo’s path almost resulted in the opener after 27 minutes, but the Brazilian couldn’t steer it into the back of the net.
For all their possession and dominance, though, Real fell behind after 35 minutes. Valverde gave away a foul deep into their own half, allowing Lee Kang-in to whip in a free-kick to the back post which was headed in by Muriqi for 1-0.
Ancelotti’s rotated side perked up again after going behind, but clearly struggled in the heat. That was until Valverde made amends for his error on the cusp of half-time with a fabulous equaliser, picking the ball up in his own half, dribbling towards goal and rifling in an incredible strike.
Proceedings were much the same after the break, with Los Blancos dominating possession and Mallorca dropping deeper and deeper in order to hang on for as long as they possibly could.
Changes were made around the hour mark to try and swing the game one way or the other. A free-kick on the edge of the box for Real saw the ball laid short for Lucas Vazquez after 61 minutes, but his curled effort whistled just wide of the post.
After another lengthy spell of possession, Real were almost undone against the run of play after 64 minutes when a neat pattern of play saw Mallorca slice open the hosts, but Antonio Sanchez poked a square ball wide from point-blank range.
A moment of brilliance tipped the game into Real’s favour with around 20 minutes to play. Luka Modric picked out Rodrygo who – with some sublime footwork in a central area – threaded the ball through to Vinicius Junior to coolly poke the ball past the goalkeeper for 2-1.
After notching a smart assist, Rodrygo sealed the result with a fantastic finish of his own in the 88th minute, picking the ball up deep, driving at Mallorca’s defenders and slaloming his way towards goal with a collection of chops and skills, before slotting the ball home for 3-1. The floodgates were now well and truly open, as Antonio Rudiger volleyed in his first Real goal from a free-kick in injury time to put the icing on the cake.
GK: Thibaut Courtois – 5/10 – Little he could do to stop Mallorca’s opening goal and was stood twiddling his thumbs for the rest of the afternoon.
RB: Lucas Vazquez – 6/10 – Could’ve done more to stretch the game and help put Mallorca under more sustained pressure. Ventured forward in spells, but didn’t do enough to stretch the back line.
CB: Antonio Rudiger – 6/10 – Little for the German to do in terms of defensive duties. Crucially, though, rounded off the afternoon by heading in his first goal for the club.
CB: David Alaba – 5/10 – Alaba could’ve done more to join the attacks given his versatility, but didn’t.
LB: Ferland Mendy – 5/10 – A quiet day at the office. Mendy didn’t seem keen on venturing forward too often, leaving him with little to do. Also lost Muriqi when defending the free-kick, which allowed him to head in the opener.
CM: Federico Valverde – 7/10 – A performance that sums up the Uruguayan. Gave away a poor free-kick in trying to make up ground, but made up for it with a tireless run and stunning finish. Real’s source of energy.
CM: Toni Kroos – 5/10 – Missing his shooting boots. Kroos tried his luck from distance several times, but lacked any real finesse.
CM: Dani Ceballos – 6/10 – Started brightly, but tailed off as the game grew on. Made some nice passes in midfield, but couldn’t find his range in more high-pressure moments.
RW: Rodrygo – 8/10 – Often looked outnumbered trying to take on defenders, but didn’t stop trying. His patience paid dividends later in the game as he produced an excellent assist and an even better goal. Lovely footwork.
CF: Eden Hazard – 5/10 – Got lost within a sea of red shirts and failed to assert himself – hooked after an hour as a result. Disappointing considering his impact from the bench against Celtic earlier in the week.
LW: Vinicius Junior – 8/10 – Vinicius stayed sharp despite not seeing much of the ball. Crucially, though, came alive when it mattered most. Brilliant first touch to set up his goal and turned up the heat to see out the result.
SUB: Luka Modric (59′ for Hazard) – 7/10 – His impact was immediately felt from the bench. Was able to pick much more complex passes and unleashed Rodrygo for Real’s second.
SUB: Nacho (59′ for Mendy) – 6/10
SUB: Eduardo Camavinga (60′ for Ceballos) – N/A
SUB: Dani Carvajal (71′ for Vazquez) – N/A