As the clock ticked into stoppage time at the end of the second-half, Angel Di Maria drove across the penalty area and fired left-footed into the bottom corner; it was his second and Real Madrid’s fourth of the night as they beat FC Copenhagen to move four points clear at the top of their Champions League group. Anyone would have thought the Argentinian was trying to prove his worth to Carlo Ancelotti due to the absence of a certain expensive signing.
It hadn’t initially looked like it was going to be Di Maria’s night. Shortly after Cristiano Ronaldo had given Madrid the lead, Di Maria combined neatly with Karim Benzema but dragged his shot wide of the post.
In truth, Di Maria didn’t produce a great deal in the first-half, perhaps as a result of the formation change that he talked of after the match: “We changed the system a bit and played with three up front.” Di Maria, with Ronaldo and Benzema, formed that front three. To the naked eye, he made his home on the right side of that trio but, like Neymar against Celtic on Tuesday night, he actually managed to spend more of his time in central areas.
Squawka’s Heat Map and Action Zones, reveal he spent just 27.78% of his time in an advanced position on the right, while he spent close to 50% of the match in central position either in, or just outside the box – it is there were he produced all of his magical moments in the second-half.
Considering he had seven shots, he’d have been disappointed if he hadn’t ended up on the score sheet. Two were blocked, two more attempts were off target and one, a 49th minute sitter in the second-half, was saved. When his goal did come though, it was the sort of strike you expect from Di Maria when his confidence is brimming. Cutting in from the right, he unleashed a curling left-foot effort from 20-yards which left the Copenhagen ‘keeper with no chance.
His tail was up because, moments before, he’d just completed one of the best moments in any game over the second week of Champions League group fixtures. Collecting Benzema’s deft touch, he swung in a “rabona” cross for Ronaldo to head in. It was one of four key crosses he provided on the night, one of five successful crosses in total and one of 11 attempted crosses on the night – he also completed 80% of his 49 passes.
Madrid then dominated the final 20 minutes, with Di Maria central to nearly everything. It was no surprise when he added his second on a night which saw him send a message to Carlo Ancelotti: he’s not going to make it easy for the Italian to drop him when Gareth Bale returns to fitness.
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