Film Focus: Real Madrid Target Full-Backs to Beat Atletico in Copa Del Rey

Christopher AtkinsContributor IFebruary 12, 2014

Atletico's Javi Manquillo, bottom, commits a penalty on Real's Cristiano Ronaldo, front, during a semi final, 2nd leg, Copa del Rey soccer match between Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

Real Madrid secured a comfortable 2-0 win over a depleted Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday night to book themselves a place in the 2014 Copa del Rey final.

With a 3-0 lead from the first leg in hand, Real held all the cards coming into the tie and Diego Simeone's choice to rest some important players suggested that he may well be content to escape with as little damage as possible from this tie.

Two goals in the opening 16 minutes from Cristiano Ronaldo, both from the penalty spot, ultimately settled the encounter, as Real Madrid's urgency in the opening minutes put the tie beyond all reasonable doubt.

So, just how did Carlo Ancelotti's side secure victory so efficiently?



Ruthless Counterattack Opens Scoring

Less than six minutes were on the clock when youngster Javi Manquillo felled Cristiano Ronaldo for the first of the Portuguese star's spot-kicks.

Having won the ball in midfield after a terrible pass from left-back Emiliano Insua, Real quickly shifted the ball towards Ronaldo via first Luka Modric and then Isco.

Sky Sports (B/R annotations)

Given that Atletico's midfield quintet had been caught ahead of the ball, Real sensed the opportunity to hit the disorganised defence—made worse by right-back Manquillo being left well ahead of play.

Sky Sports (B/R annotations)

While Miranda had done well to cover across and force Ronaldo into a wider shooting position on his left foot, the inexperience of Manquillo showed with an overeager attempt to recover his position.

Manquillo fouls in eagerness to recover position
Manquillo fouls in eagerness to recover positionSky Sports (B/R annotations)

Ronaldo was clipped by the youngster, went to ground and, eventually, dispatched the spot-kick with ease.

It was a goal that will frustrate Diego Simeone, given his emphasis on compact defending and the simplicity with which Real were able to create the shooting chance. Manquillo, too, must learn to be less naive in his defensive play.


A Follow-Up Opportunity

Just minutes later, Real Madrid had a further golden opportunity to extend their lead and, once more, it was caused by Ronaldo in a one-on-one situation with Manquillo. This time, however, the battle was aerial.

What Real did well was to move their midfield three all to the right of the pitch, with Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric and Asier Illarramendi all linking with Dani Carvajal on the right. Gareth Bale, also, is on that flank.

Sky Sports (B/R annotations)

With nominal No. 9 Isco dropping deeper and providing no obvious threat, the Atletico defence and midfield has been drawn to the right of the pitch to deal with the Real Madrid attack.

A quick change of emphasis from Illarramendi, though, brings an opportunity. The midfielder crosses deep to the back post where Ronaldo has isolated himself against Manquillo whom he has the beating of aerially.

Sky Sports (B/R annotations)

Sky Sports (B/R annotations)

In the end, a poor header drifts wide of the post. On another day, Ronaldo would have expected to double his side's lead.


A Second Penalty: Isco the Key Man

In the 16th minute, Real Madrid would win a second penalty of the night and once more the threat came down the flanks.

In this instance, though, it is "false nine" Isco who plays the key role. First, the Spaniard drops deep to receive the ball in space before distributing to Gareth Bale on the right.

Sky Sports (B/R annotations)

Isco then overlaps beyond the Welshman, receiving the ball back before backheeling a clever pass back to his colleague who has now made a clever run infield towards the penalty area.

Sky Sports (B/R annotations)

Insua is slow off the mark to react to Bale's run and, by the time he is able to get close enough for a tackle, the Welshman is in the area.

Sky Sports (B/R annotations)

Again, misjudgements would cost Atletico and Insua's wild attempt to win the ball earned Real a second spot-kick. It was unnecessary and, ultimately, costly for his side.


The Key Elements that Allowed Real Madrid Success

Despite their 4-3-3 setup with Isco as a false nine being seen as a primarily counterattacking option pre-match, Real Madrid were able to dominate possession at the Vicente Calderon.

Isco dropping deeper also meant that the most advanced members of the Real Madrid side were often the two wide forwards—Ronaldo and Bale—putting pressure on Atletico's full-backs.

With Alonso, Illarramendi, Modric and Isco all in central areas, Real had a choice of distributors, were able to manipulate possession and get between the Atletico lines.

Both Insua and Manquillo are not regular starters, with Juanfran and Filipe Luis the preferred options.

They were both sloppy in their passing (completing 67 and 69 percent respectively) and, particularly in the case of Manquillo, left exposed defensively. Just 19, the right-back was withdrawn at half-time.

Real pressed both Ronaldo and Bale high up against their full-backs when out of possession, meaning the pair were forced into clearances. Between them, Manquillo and Insua attempted just 34 passes in 135 minutes on the pitch. By means of comparison, Juanfran made 25 in the 45 minutes he was on the pitch.

Ancelotti exploited his opponents' lack of experience and quality at full-back and his side were rewarded for their efforts. Within just 16 minutes of the game getting underway, it was well and truly over as a contest.

(All statistics via