Modric 9/10, youngster Gutierrez 8/10 as Real Madrid keep pace in the La Liga title race

Real Madrid secured a comfortable 4-1 win at Granada on Thursday to keep pace in the La Liga title race.

Karim Benzema had a header saved by goalkeeper Rui Silva before Luka Modric put Madrid ahead with 17 minutes played, slotting in Miguel Gutierrez‘s ingenious chipped assist. There were chances for Marvin Park, Benzema, and Vinicius Junior before Rodrygo doubled Madrid’s lead before half-time, firing low past Silva.

Vinicius had another effort saved before Granada’s Luis Suarez missed a great opportunity to pull a goal back for the hosts. Jorge Molina did so, but Granada’s joy was short-lived, as first Alvaro Odriozola — assisted by substitute Eden Hazard — and then Benzema made sure of the win, leaving Madrid two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with two games left to play.

Positives

Atletico’s win 24 hours earlier meant only three points would do here for Real Madrid, up against a Granada side who have been one of the most impressive overachievers in La Liga this season. The victory was achieved without too much fuss, but with a real dash of style, too, with some outstanding football being played by Zinedine Zidane’s team.

Madrid’s youngsters have consistently impressed this season — often when called upon to plug the numerous holes in the team caused by the squad’s never-ending injury crisis — but none have excited, or looked so at home at this level, like Miguel Gutierrez. The left-back is the genuine article and when he’s playing like this, Marcelo shouldn’t get a look in.

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Negatives

There were no negatives here, really, although there were moments in the second half when Granada’s attack — looking incredibly lively given that this was their 56th game this season — threatened to make this match much more of a contest, with Thibaut Courtois called upon to bail his side out.

Manager rating out of 10

8 — Zinedine Zidane was missing his six preferred defenders here — Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Dani Carvajal, Ferland Mendy, Lucas Vazquez, and Marcelo — and so was forced to pick kids Marvin and Miguel at full-back. His faith was rewarded by both, but especially Miguel, with Marvin unlucky to be forced off with an injury.

Zidane’s substitutions worked, too, with both Odriozola and Hazard making an impact.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Thibaut Courtois, 8 — Almost lost his bearings and carried the ball out of his area in the second half. Later made two impressive stops, and could do nothing about Molina’s follow-up.

DF Marvin Park, 7 — Made just his second first-team start of the season and was played out of position at right-back. Got forwards often early on but was hurt by a tackle from Darwin Machis and had to be replaced at half-time.

DF Eder Militao, 7 — Booked for a foul on the imposing Molina. Another impressive, mostly solid performance. His rebirth this season has been remarkable.

DF Nacho, 7 — Did a good job against a dangerous Granada, marshalling a defence with inexperienced players on both flanks.

DF Miguel Gutierrez, 8 — An outstanding assist for Modric displayed the confidence and creative spark that have seen him rated as the most talented youngster of his generation at the club. Deserved this start after impressing off the bench over this last month.

MF Casemiro, 7 — Outshone by Modric, and didn’t seem to get forwards as often as he has in recent games, but by no means a poor display.

MF Federico Valverde, 7 — Caught by Yan Eteki with a bad challenge in the first half, and produced one clever through ball for Marvin.

MF Luka Modric, 9 — Opened the scoring when his smart run was spotted by Miguel, and took the chance really well. Played a sensational through ball for Vinicius in the second half.

FW Vinicius Junior, 6 — One exciting early run, and had shots saved before and after half-time, but his ongoing issues in terms of end product continued.

FW Rodrygo, 8 — Delivered a pinpoint cross for Benzema’s early header and a similarly accurate shot for Madrid’s second goal. A display of composed finishing to make compatriot Vinicius jealous. Surprisingly, that was his first league goal this season.

FW Karim Benzema, 8 — Had a good header saved early on but scored Madrid’s fourth, keeping a cool head when presented with the opportunity by Silva.

Substitutes

DF Alvaro Odriozola, 7 — Came on for the second half and scored the third goal at a crucial time, reacting quickest to Hazard’s pull-back.

FW Marco Asensio, 6 — Did well to take evasive action to avoid Odriozola’s goalbound shot.

FW Eden Hazard, 7 — Caught badly by Domingos Quina in a wince-inducing challenge but recovered to provide Odriozola with a smart assist, crossing after almost overrunning the ball.

MF Isco, 6 — Not as eye-catching as Madrid’s other substitutes.

FW Mariano Diaz, N/R — Played the last 10 minutes.

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