Lucas Vazquez shines again but fellow backups underwhelm vs. Numancia
Real Madrid progress to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey despite failing to beat lower-division opposition at the Bernabeu for the second time in this edition of the competition.
Madrid returned to the Spanish capital with a 3-0 advantage over Numancia from the first leg, and Lucas Vazquez put the tie beyond doubt with a headed goal after just 10 minutes. Guillermo equalised for the visitors at the end of the first half, finishing an incisive counterattack at the far post. Lucas doubled his tally from close range after 58 minutes.
But Madrid could not hang on. Guillermo directed an emphatic header into the corner with eight minutes remaining to leave the Bernabeu in a gloomy mood.
Madrid are still in the hat. The less said about how they have got to the quarterfinals, the better. But they are in the quarterfinals nonetheless. That was the response Zinedine Zidane delivered with a smile when interviewed by Spanish television after the match.
Numancia controlled the last five minutes and looked more likely to win the match than Madrid. That was partly due to Zidane removing a striker -- Borja Mayoral -- and bringing on a defensive midfielder -- Casemiro -- in his place. It is also indicative that the Madrid squad are crippled by a lack of confidence. Madrid were lethargic and failed to break down second-division opposition. The home side only mustered 14 shots to Numancia's 11 despite dominating possession.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Zidane deployed, for most of the match, a 4-2-3-1 formation. Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio, and Dani Ceballos interchanged behind Borja Mayoral while Marcos Llorente and Mateo Kovacic occupied deeper midfield positions. The coach's decision to replace Mayoral with Casemiro was curious. He intended to make his team more compact. Instead, it put Madrid on the back foot.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kiko Casilla, 6 -- Denied Nacho Sanchez with a smart save in the second half. Casilla could do little to prevent either goal on what could be his final appearance for the club. The possible signing of Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao would probably spell the end of his time at the club.
DF Dani Carvajal, 7 -- Showed his value after 10 minutes when he shaped a sumptuous cross on to Lucas' forehead. Madrid miss that deftness when Achraf Hakimi occupies the right-back spot. Made way at half-time, with that man Achraf taking his place.
DF Jesus Vallejo, 6 -- A measured performance from a player who relies on clever position and astute reading of the game. "We have to be a lot more compact," he said at full-time when asked to diagnose another unconvincing team performance.
DF Nacho, 6 -- Outmuscled by Guillermo for the Numancia forward's second goal. There are few more reliable back-up players in Europe. Tonight, however, with the captain's armband around his bicep, he was not as solid as usual.
DF Theo Hernandez, 4 -- Florentino Perez will be studying the fine print of Theo's contract to see if he can send him back to Atletico Madrid and take his brother, Lucas, instead. The occasional misplaced pass pockmarked an otherwise anonymous performance. Of all the summer signings, Theo appears to be struggling the most to adapt.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 6 -- Provided a goal-saving tackle to prevent Pere Milla from shooting from six yards as the match crept up to 80 minutes. He strode forward from the base of midfield on many occasions. Those meandering runs summed up his match: very graceful but lacking incision.
MF Marcos Llorente, 6 -- A player who could be chiselled from a block of glucose, such are his energy levels. But he must learn to read the game and sniff danger. Llorente appeared to be caught in two minds in the build-up to Numancia's first equaliser. He neither applied pressure, nor dropped off to intercept the pass.
MF Dani Ceballos, 7 -- Ceballos did not travel to Vigo for the La Liga match on Sunday. He had a point to prove and responded with a performance that simmered but never quite bubbled to the boil. He was positive. He always sought to create. A mesmerising flip-flap in the second half was typical of a performance that was easy on the eye. Goals and assists are not far away.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 8 -- The most dependable member of Zidane's second-string. Took his two goals well to record his first ever double for Real Madrid. A slack pass allowed Numancia to scythe through the defence and equalise at the end of the first half. But that was a rare mishap.
FW Borja Mayoral, 4 -- Assisted Lucas' second goal with an intelligent, cushioned header. He did very little apart from that. The Copa del Rey was an opportunity for him to apply pressure on Karim Benzema. He has failed to grasp it.
FW Marco Asensio, 6 -- His performance peaked after nine minutes when he swerved inside from the right flank and shot into the side-netting. Asensio was busy for the rest of the match but failed to ignite.
DF Achraf Hakimi, 7 -- Came on at half-time and made several galloping runs down the right flank.
MF Isco, 6 -- Slick but ineffective after replacing Asensio on 62 minutes.
MF Casemiro, NR -- Did little of note apart from picking up a booking for a cynical shoulder barge.
Matt McGinn is ESPN FC's Real Madrid blogger. Twitter: @McGinn93