Vinicius Junior Real Madrid's lone bright spark in gloomy defeat to Real Sociedad
On Three Kings night in Spain, Real Madrid gifted a 2-0 victory to visitors Real Sociedad, with Willian Jose's early penalty and Ruben Pardo's late effort enough for the Basque side's first win at the Bernabeu since 2004.
Vinicius Junior had a startlingly good first La Liga start, but looking to an 18-year-old Brazilian just settling in Europe to avoid humiliation should not really count as a positive for a club like Madrid.
Manager Santiago Solari's claims at Saturday's news conference that Madrid can be happy with fourth and that drawing matches wasn't bad went down badly with local fans and pundits.
They are now fifth after losing at home to a team who had been beaten in each of their last four games A 53,412 crowd (at the 81,000-capacity Bernabeu) will be an issue for club president Florentino Perez, who had to suffer a few chants for his resignation after Real Sociedad's second goal.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Solari will get a lot of the blame for Madrid's dire predicament, but it is clearly not all his fault. Starting Vinicius over Isco for the injured Gareth Bale was clearly the right call. But the former Castilla coach is just not getting performances out of the big names in his squad, and an increasingly hostile relationship with the local media does not bode well.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 7 -- Sent wrong way for Willian Jose's second minute penalty and completely exposed for Pardo's late header. Saved his team from further embarrassment by denying Adnan Januzaj and David Zurutuza in one-on-ones during the second half as the defence in front of him disintegrated.
DF Dani Carvajal, 6 -- Totally lacking his usual drive and energy from right-back -- a sign that Madrid have not really returned from the winter break ... or maybe not yet started their 2018-19 season.
DF Raphael Varane, 6 -- Denied what would have been a second goal in four days by a good Geronimo Rulli save, but part of a defence that rocked alarmingly throughout.
DF Sergio Ramos, 7 -- Madrid's most switched on defender bailed out teammates at least three times in the first half and also pushed forward to try and spark something at the other end. Brought a decent save from Rulli too.
DF Marcelo, 5 -- Backed by Solari prematch amid criticism following recent poor form, but there was no improvement and more whistles from the crowd as ex-Manchester United winger Januzaj led the Brazilian a merry dance.
MF Luka Modric, 6 -- Decent 20-yarder tested Rulli midway through the first half, but he wasn't able to lift his team out of their collective slumber. Booked for talking back to the referee in the second half as Madrid lost their cool.
MF Casemiro, 5 -- Clumsy challenge on Mikel Merino for a penalty after just 80 seconds set the tone for a sluggish performance which shows he has a long way to get back to full form and fitness.
MF Toni Kroos, 5 -- Outplayed by ex-Newcastle midfielder Merino when in his usual creative midfield role, then overrun when moved to the holding position after Casemiro was substituted.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 5 -- Embarrassingly stumbled over his own feet when sent through by a neat Vinicius flick and later picked up silly second yellow for a trip to stop Merino counter-attacking near the hour mark.
FW Karim Benzema, 6 -- Got no joy from either of Real Sociedad's centre-backs, and when space did open up, he missed a simple chance by firing wide of the far post from eight yards.
FW Vinicius Junior, 8 -- It often seemed that the Bernabeu viewed him as the best chance of something to cheer. On his first La Liga start he was twice denied by Rulli, and the home fans screamed for a penalty at 1-0 down when Vinicius tumbled in the box but the referee waved away the appeals. Madrid's only real positive on the night after showing bundles of promise in difficult circumstances.
MF Isco, 7 -- Sent on to big cheers before the hour mark but did nothing to change the way the game was going.
DF Sergio Reguilon, N/R -- Youth-team graduate replaced Marcelo late on, in stark contrast to just a few years ago when then-coach Zinedine Zidane often sent on international stars like James Rodriguez or Alvaro Morata to successfully turn around games like this.
MF Dani Ceballos, N/R -- On for the final 10 minutes.