Football Features

Estupiñan “devours” Bale on Real Madrid return as Zidane’s men claim 4-1 win vs Osasuna

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 17:10, 9 February 2020

In a strange afternoon of football, Real Madrid smashed Osasuna 1-4 at El Sadar.

Osasuna matched Los Blancos for the vast majority of the game but a reckless last 10 minutes saw Zinedine Zidane’s men turn the game into a thrashing. Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Casemiro

Real Madrid conceded four goals at home midweek in the Copa del Rey. Casemiro didn’t play at home midweek in the Copa del Rey. Now there’s more to it than simply the Brazilian’s absence, especially given Thibaut Courtois wasn’t in goal then (and was on Sunday, making yet another crucial save to keep Osasuna from going 2-0 up), but one cannot deny that Los Blancos badly missed the Brazilian in midweek.

Not so on Sunday, where Casemiro repeatedly provided his usual cocktail of last-ditch tackles and effective final third contribution. To be fair, he lost Unai Garcia for Osasuna’s opener but then set about redeeming himself in a perfectly Casemiro style.

The Brazilian got a superb headed assist for Madrid’s second goal, giving Los Blancos a lead they would never surrender, but his real impact was in midfield where he allied with Fede Valverde to create a shield that largely protected the Madrid defence from Osasuna’s rampages through the middle. This forced Osasuna wide which meant that they were mostly sending crosses into the box, something Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos are infinitely more comfortable dealing with.

Real Madrid vs Osasuna | Squawka

Loser: Sergio Herrera

Osasuna fought like hell against Real Madrid and it feels harsh to criticise any of their players too much, even though David Garcia played Isco onside for Madrid’s equaliser and then played Ramos onside for Madrid’s second as well. But as much as Garcia erred twice, he played well for the rest of the game. Sergio Herrera, meanwhile, never raised his game above “meh.”

And “meh” was genuinely a rare high point. For the most part he looked erratic and completely lacking in confidence. When you’re facing Real Madrid you need everyone to be playing at 100% to have any hope of beating them. And sure enough Osasuna went 1-0 up, and had that chance.

But Herrera presented such a weak non-presence in goal that whenever Madrid applied some pressure, you never felt like Herrera was a safe pair of hands and that lack of confidence radiated out through the defence and probably contributed heavily to things like Garcia always dropping deep and playing everyone onside – a dominant keeper would be coming to claim the ball more and take pressure off his defence, but Herrera only added to it.

Real Madrid vs Osasuna | Squawka

Winner: Sergio Ramos

Defenders that score goals are invaluable, because no one really relies on defenders to do that so those goals always feel like added value. A bonus that gives your side an unexpected advantage, and today Ramos scored yet again for Real Madrid and gave them a massive advantage. His thumping header at the back-post was, effectively, the game-winner. His 90th goal in all competitions for Real Madrid, and even as he approaches his 34th birthday, would you bet against him getting that century?

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Loser: VAR

VAR in La Liga has mostly worked in La Liga. At the very least referees move over to the monitor before making major calls. That’s not to say it’s been flawless or anything, but it tends to get things right more than wrong and thus make the game more fair.

At El Sadar, however, VAR made a big impact via a non-decision in the first-half that had a massive impact. Ramos slid in studs up into the ankle of Ruben Garcia. It was a brutal tackle and had Garcia’s foot been planted, it would have been an ankle-breaker.

It wasn’t necessarily a surprise to see Ramos make a tackle like this, the Madrid skipper has more red cards than anyone in La Liga history, but was a surprise was that firstly the referee declined to act, and secondly that VAR didn’t act as a corrective. Especially when, as in the previous game, Iker Muniain received a straight red card for a far less brutal tackle.

The decision had a massive impact on the game, both from Madrid having 11 men instead of 10 for most of the match and then moreso because it was Ramos that scored the game-winning goal for Los Blancos. Without him on the field, the game would have continued at 1-1 for longer and who knows what would have happened?

Winner: Luka Jovic

The Serbian striker was signed to be Real Madrid’s future in attack, the new goalscorer for a new era at the Santiago Bernabeu. Before Sunday he had just one goal in 14 games and was mostly used as a bit-part player, coming off the game to kill time late. He’s shown nothing like the lethality he displayed for Frankfurt last season, until this game at least.

Late in the game Osasuna were throwing bodies forward to try and get back in the game when the excellent Valverde charged into the box and lifted the ball across to Luka Jovic who, without hesitation, thumped the ball into the roof of the net with his left foot. It was a stunning goal that could finally put the Serbian into the kind of goalscoring rhythm many expected when he joined.

Winner: Watford

Pervis Estupiñan is a 22-year-old left-back on loan at Osasuna from Watford. The Ecuadorian has been phenomenal all season and today faced a huge test against Real Madrid, and despite his side getting smashed 1-4 you could argue he passed it with flying colours.

Real Madrid vs Osasuna | Squawka

Estupiñan regained possession 17 times, a game-high. He made two tackles, two clearances, three interceptions and a game-high three blocks. He was Osasuna’s “Mr. Everything” on the night with more touches (99) and crosses (10) than anyone else for either side. More than his general excellence he even won his showdown with Madrid’s right-winger, Gareth Bale.

Estupiñan devoured Bale in basically all of their one-vs-one duels. He almost seemed to dare the Welshman to try him athletically only to overwhelm him repeatedly. If any Osasuna player truly excelled against Madrid, it was the man who was on loan from Watford.

The Hornets will have been delighted to see that, as he reduced Bale to a spectator who accidented his way to Madrid’s opening assist with the air of a contest winner rather than a seasoned professional who has won multiple Champions Leagues. To have a player capable of such excellence on their books bodes very well for their future, should Watford stay in the Premier League.