Vazquez makes case for place in Real XI with all-action showing at Leganes
Real Madrid came from behind to chalk up a 3-1 win at Leganes, lifting Zinedine Zidane's side to third in La Liga. Unai Bustinza scored from a corner, putting the hosts ahead six minutes into the match. But Lucas Vazquez, Casemiro and Sergio Ramos answered, earning Real Madrid a hard-fought win against the team that knocked them out of the Copa del Rey last month.
Real pressed hard in the first half to win possession every time Leganes tried to play out from the back. The one-touch movement for the second goal was exactly what Madrid have been lacking. In the absence of several regular starters, the visitors were a cohesive unit and executed Zidane's game plan to perfection.
A first Liga clean sheet since Dec. 9 evaded Zidane's side, who were typically haphazard defending corners. Real dropped off noticeably in the second half when the final ball went AWOL and Lega had a couple of chances to make it 2-2 before Ramos settled the affair from the spot in the 90th minute.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Zidane put out his best available side after resting Cristiano Ronaldo and Keylor Navas and deserves credit for his tactic, allowing Vazquez and Marco Asensio to run amok on the right. Despite struggling to create much in the second half, however, Zidane waited until the 75th minute to make a change and that appeared forced by Karim Benzema limping off. Zidane's 4-2-3-1 formation brought the best out of the Frenchman, who was instrumental in the first and second goals.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kiko Casilla, 7 -- Did his job from the corner but couldn't prevent Bustinza's early follow-up. A fantastic reflex save from Claudio Beauvue prevented Lega pulling level in the second half.
DF Dani Carvajal, 6 -- Offered little going forward but that is more a compliment to Vazquez than criticism of Carvajal, who kept Omar Ramos in check and other than one positional lapse did his defensive job well.
DF Raphael Varane, 7 -- An impressive performance was capped by cutting out Diego Rico's dangerous cross with no white shirts in attendance and Beauvue closing in. Used his pace to cover the gaps across the back line and doubled up when Theo Hernandez needed a guiding hand.
DF Sergio Ramos, 6 -- Unlucky to go in the book for a 50-50 tangle with Nabil El Zhar after chasing the winger down on the break and will miss the Alaves game as a result. Solid if unspectacular at the back, the captain sealed the game with a penalty in the 90th minute, his third goal in four Liga outings.
DF Theo Hernandez, 7 -- An inauspicious start& -- his attempted clearance hitting Bustinza and ending up in the back of Casilla's net -- and a few poor first touches displayed a lack of confidence. Grew into the game with a vital block on a goal-bound Beauvue header. A fine defensive performance in the second 45 as Lega targeted his flank. No Real player made more successful tackles.
MF Casemiro, 8 -- Bagged the second in the 29th minute after a fine collective move and once again proved he is the key component of Real's midfield, whoever is slightly in front of him. Won as many headers in the area as Ramos and broke up several Lega breaks with his innate ability to be in the right place at the right time.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 7 -- Casemiro will be credited with the assist for Vazquez but it was the Croatian's pass that provoked it, his midfield partner's poor control falling kindly for the winger. Still had enough in the tank to make the run for the penalty in a lung-bursting and effective 90 minutes.
MF Isco, 6 -- Active in the first half but failed to influence the game in the second as his side flagged in general. Got himself into a few tight corners he couldn't negotiate and lost possession several times, although his effort late on was Real's best chance of the second period.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 9 -- Took advantage of another start to stake a claim for more regular appearances in the first 11. Equalised in the 11th minute with a crisp strike across Pichu Cuellar and laid on the second for Casemiro in an all-action performance that gave Zidane something to think about for next month's Champions League match at Paris Saint-Germain. Only Hernandez made more tackles.
FW Marco Asensio, 8 -- Like Vazquez, there is little more Asensio can do to be one of the first names on the team sheet other than costing the club a fortune when he was signed. A constant threat with his driving runs and rarely gifted the ball in midfield, which will be a handy trick in the Parc des Princes.
FW Karim Benzema, 7 -- Started the move for the equaliser with a recovery and clever reverse ball and teed up the second in a neat interchange with Casemiro before picking Vazquez out. Managed only one off-target shot but provided two goals through his awareness of where his teammates are, or are going to be.
FW Gareth Bale, NR -- On for Benzema on 75 minutes, drew a sharp save from Pichu in an explosive cameo.
MF Marcos Llorente, NR -- On for Isco with five minutes to play in his first appearance since December and didn't get a single touch, which rather sums up his season.
Rob Train covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Cafc13Rob.