Real Madrid vs. Real Zaragoza: Score, Analysis and Grades
Spurred by two early goals and a brilliant performance from goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Real Madrid defeated Real Zaragoza 4-0 on Saturday to get a critical three points in La Liga play.
Los Blancos were heavy favorites coming into the match and were seemingly on their way toward eviscerating Zaragoza after goals from forward Gonzalo Higuain and midfielder Angel Di Maria put Madrid up 2-0.
Higuain's goal came from in close in the 23rd minute and was followed up a mere two minutes later by Di Maria on a wonky play that saw the midfielder just continue be at the right place.
Despite the early deficit, the Blanquillos would not quit and stayed competitive through the whole match. It took a couple of brilliant saves from Casillas and an unfortunate nailing of the crossbar by Jose Mari to keep Zaragoza off the board.
In what turned out to essentially be garbage-time goals, Michael Essien and Luka Modric tallied in the match's final minutes to finalize the score.
Nonetheless, nearly every statistic points to this match being far closer than the final score would indicate. Madrid won a majority of possessions, but with a mere 51 percent, and both teams shot the ball well on the attack.
Still, you cannot deny a 4-0 victory, and it couldn't come at a better time for Real Madrid. Despite a plus-17 goal differential, Jose Mourinho's squad had fallen well behind Atletico and Barcelona in La Liga standings.
With the contest all wrapped up, let's get to everyone's favorite part of the show and grade Saturday's key players.
Gonzalo Higuain, Real Madrid: A
The 24-year-old forward was seemingly on the attack throughout the match and was undoubtedly Madrid's best player.
Even without his goal, Higuain likely would have scored high due to the fact he continually helped create offensive chances for himself and teammates.
When Karim Benzema substituted in, it came at a perfect time and allowed Higuain to get the recognition he deserved from teammates.
Jose Mari, Real Zaragoza: B
You cannot get an "A" in my book for having an almost-goal, but Mari still brings himself a solid 3.0 GPA for Saturday.
The 33-year-old nearly brought Zaragoza back into the match with a beautiful 25-yard shot that went over Casillas' head before nailing the crossbar.
Had it gone into the net, you would have undoubtedly seen the shot on SportsCenter, and it could have changed the course of the match. Good enough for a B from me.
Ángel Di Maria, Real Madrid: A
If you want a case of a player being persistently aggressive, all you need to do is look at Di Maria's goal on Saturday.
It wasn't the prettiest, nor was it the most exhilarating, but the midfielder's goal gave Real Madrid critical breathing room.
Good enough for an "A" from this grader.
Roberto Gago, Real Zaragoza: F
No matter the level of competition, anytime a goalkeeper gives up four goals, he has failed his squad.
At just 26 years old, Gago is still relatively young, but he's played in La Liga long enough to know those performances won't be tolerated long-term.
Devil's advocate: It's not like the Real Zaragoza defense did all that much to help out its keeper.
Iker Casillas, Real Madrid: A
A clean sheet against a group of toddlers probably would still get an "A" from me, so there's almost no debate about Casillas' grade against Zaragoza.
He halted the opposing attack when needed and was in fine form against an attack that came out in the second half on fire.
Casillas isn't one of the best in the business for nothing, folks.
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