Asensio comes to lethargic Madrid's rescue in late win over Leganes
Real Madrid take a one-goal advantage back to the Bernabeu for the second leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinal tie against Leganes courtesy of Marco Asensio's 88th-minute winner, but the visitors scarcely deserved more than a 0-0 draw. That Lega, in the last eight for the first time in their 89-year history, did not go for the jugular of a struggling Madrid was a surprise, but neither side evoked the magic of the cup in a game that will not linger long in the memory.
Other than Asensio's well-taken volley, none. Madrid were lethargic, disjointed and looked barely bothered to even acknowledge the motions, let alone go through them.
Real's first attempt on goal was 23 minutes in the making, and Zinedine Zidane's reserves managed just four on target overall. Leganes looked more likely to score in the second half, and both individually and collectively the visitors put in a dreadful performance.
Manager rating out of 10
3 -- "In general we can't say we played a good game," said Zidane in his postmatch news conference. Remove "in general" and he was perfectly correct. His selection can be explained either by a genuine desire to keep his fringe players interested or utter contempt for the cup. In any case, he is not doing himself any favours as his side stumble from one poor display to another, whoever is on the pitch. When Nordin Amrabat proves the most potent substitute to come off either bench, Zidane's Copa policy warrants scrutiny. At least one senior forward should have been on his.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kiko Casilla, 5 -- Indecisive coming off his line but cut out a Jose Naranjo cross sharply with Claudio Beauvue closing in. Earned his coin with a cracking reflex save from Beauvue but a mix-up with Raphael Varane late on could have proved costly.
DF Dani Carvajal, 5 -- Lucky to escape censure for an early challenge on Beauvue in an ill-tempered performance and almost lost out to the French striker tracking back on 35 minutes. Went closer than anyone in the first half with a drive into Gerard Gumbau but his evening was summed up by a back-heeled nutmeg from Diego Rico.
DF Jesus Vallejo, NR -- Forced off on 14 minutes with an injury.
DF Raphael Varane, 6 -- Captain on the night, Varane was solid on the defensive and led by example as best he could, providing a threat at the other end when the chance arose.
DF Theo Hernandez, 4 -- Torched by Nabil El Zhar in the first half and put two passes aimed at Asensio clean into touch. He will be credited with an assist but owes Asensio for the flattery. Another performance to put a smile on the face of Atletico's bean counters and the under-fire Marcelo.
MF Marcos Llorente, 4 -- His most notable contribution was almost beating his own keeper with a defensive header and it was little surprise when the struggling midfielder was hooked after a largely anonymous 70 minutes.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 5 -- Rode three challenges in the kind of midfield cavalry charge Madrid have been missing but gradually drifted out of the game, quite probably because of a howling miss on 33 minutes when with only Nereo Champagne to trouble he missed the target entirely.
MF Dani Ceballos, 5 -- Unlike most of his teammates, full of energy but equally out of sorts, perhaps amid rumours of a January loan move. The player of the tournament at the 2017 under-21 Euros is another victim of Real's "hoover 'em up and spit 'em out" policy.
MF Lucas Vazquez, 4 -- Should have been booked for a silly push on Ruben Perez but went unpunished on the basis of Vazquez being "not that sort of player" and apologising quickly and sincerely. Fluffed a chance in the second half after a neat interchange with Luka Modric. The saviour of the last round could not repeat the trick.
MF Marco Asensio, 6 -- Until he rifled in a wonderful instinctive volley, one dangerous cross and one deflected shot on target were all Asensio would take from Butarque. Zidane can take heart that his young protege turned match-winner again but the goal masked another under-par performance.
FW Borja Mayoral, 3 -- Glancing at a team sheet to identify the No. 21 when he was bundled off the ball in the second half thinking a substitution had been missed is understandable. Mayoral was isolated but did little to link up with his teammates and he really might as well not have been on the pitch at all, however harsh that sounds.
DF Nacho, 6 -- On for Vallejo, Mr. Reliable was just that but let Beauvue in behind for Lega's best chance of the game and should have gone in the book for manhandling El Zhar.
MF Luka Modric, 6 -- On for Ceballos, provided an immediate upgrade from economy to executive class with a flick for Vazquez but couldn't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.
MF Isco, NR -- On for Llorente, showed a few flashes but like his fellow seniors looked affronted to be on the pitch at all.
Rob Train covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Cafc13Rob.