Cristiano Ronaldo put his barren goal-scoring spell behind him with a fantastic away performance against Deportivo Alavés as Real Madrid maintained their slender lead at the top of the La Liga table. Spanish football has seen a remarkable level of competitiveness this season, with very little separating the top five teams – and every point will prove valuable to Zidane and his men in the race to the league title.
Pressure has been building on Madrid’s iconic BBC trident after impressive performances from the likes of Marco Asensio and Álvaro Morata – but Zidane, unfazed by the criticism, fielded his star trio once again. In midfield, the ever-present Toni Kroos was accompanied by Isco and Mateo Kovacic as Columbian superstar James Rodríguez was left out for tactical reasons. The only major defensive change was the introduction of Danilo for Carvajal – with Pepe, Varane, and Marcelo retaining their place in the back-four.
An early goal from Deyverson gave Alaves a shock lead, but Ronaldo scored a penalty shortly after to restore parity. A second from Ronaldo gave Real Madrid the lead in the 33rd minute, as a long-range strike from the Portugese forward nestled its way into the net after taking a slight deflection. A couple of minutes later, Los Blancos were awarded another penalty – but Ronaldo failed to convert this time as Pacheco pulled off an excellent save. With the the score-line at 1-2, there was still much to play for in the second half; and Alaves continued to show tremendous fighting spirit until late goals from Morata and Ronaldo put the game to bed.
Ronaldo was visibly delighted after completing his hat-trick, having only managed to score 2 goals in his previous 6 La Liga appearances – his worst start to a league season during his Real Madrid career. Elsewhere, Bale and Benzema also put in good shifts as the team continues to regain its effectiveness in front of goal. However, defensive errors remain a concern for Zidane as clean-sheets have been hard to come by in recent times – and a more disciplined approach may benefit Madrid’s rambunctious back-line. Moreover, crucial title-deciding encounters against teams like Barcelona, Atletico, and Sevilla are drawing ever-closer for the Galacticos; and their undefeated streak could come to an abrupt end if the players succumb to such costly mistakes again.