Real Madrid started in Pasadena against Milan with a formula that has allowed them to progress often in recent years, a comeback that ended with a run from Vinicius behind defense to solve the problem that had otherwise been stuck. After the first performance, Carlo Ancelotti’s side, in which Bellinhgam shone, is lacking some adjustments in defence, which is more due to the lack of competitive rhythm than anything else. But above all, the great unknown that stood out when looking at the squad on paper and remained open on the field: how Madrid will manage to be effective without Benzema or another world-class nine in attack. That’s yet to come, though two Milan defeats saw Valverde secure the win with two goals.
Seeking a solution to the course’s great conundrum, Ancelotti began to redesign the classic scheme of recent years to accommodate newcomer Jude Bellingham. Also to try to hide the huge void left by Benzema. From 4-3-3 to a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-4-2 with the middle four in a diamond and the Englishman behind the two forwards who were Brahim and Joselu in the first half. Behind him, Kroos as the pivot, Camavinga on the left and Valverde on the right.
What worked best in the first 11 games was Bellingham. From his vantage point in the central area, he contributed to the development and supported those who built behind it. But mostly it glowed as he jumped forward. When he found Brahim in the box with a filtered pass. When he shot at a defender after a combination also with Brahim and a little slalom. As he left his head for a shot from Militão. The last to arrive appeared to be the least tentative team as the shootout began.
Especially in defence, where, with defeat after defeat, Mendy became Milan’s main ball supplier. The Italians did little to defuse Madrid’s departure. And a poor pass from Nacho led to a recovery that ended in Italy’s second goal, a left-footed strike from former Mallorca player Luka Romero for Lunin’s side. The first had arisen from another rear mismatch. Pulisic took a corner and Tomori alone headed it into the small area between Militão and Nacho.
Milan came into the break with this lead (0-2), even though Madrid had the ball longer. But with little benefit beyond what little Bellingham and Brahim brought together. He hardly showed any danger on the wings, but Lucas Vázquez and Carvajal didn’t come. And Joselu was completely invisible.
The unity he introduced in the second half worked better for Ancelotti as Carvajal and Fran García came on the flanks, who stirred up the left wing a little more. There he faced Vinicius, who opened the 7th, and switched attack with Rodrygo. He woke up Madrid on the right flank, very quick on his feet, always heading towards the penalty area. Sportiello didn’t have to make any stops until he appeared on the field.
The attack started to work for Real, but the goals were determined by mistakes made by Milan, the opposite of what happened in the first half. The double was a gift from Sportiello, who let a very long shot from Valverde pass under his hands. The Italians experienced a few moments of confusion, leading to a defeat just two minutes later which the Uruguayan took advantage of to level. Milan lost in a dizzying sigh what they had won in two dizzying stages of Madrid.
Ancelotti’s team was familiar with the changes and, above all, with the threat posed by the two Brazilians in attack. Some of the winger’s imagination had returned and the 70,000 Rose Bowl crowd, mostly Real Madrid fans, were enthralled by Vinicius. The Brazilian didn’t intervene as quickly as Rodrygo, whose impact was immediate. After three or four falls that seemed like his ankle had been shattered, he had a hard time finding the gaps again and then there was nothing.
The game was solved with a Madrid classic salvaged in California, an automatism that worked blindly. Modric shot a long ball behind the defense, Vinicius won the race, left alone with the goalkeeper and scored. A game that always comes down to a usual result: Madrid start with a comeback.
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