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Goals from David Alaba and Karim Benzema were enough to topple the Bundesliga side on Wednesday night. Alex Kirkland recaps the game and picks the best/worst performers on a merry, historic night for the Champions League and LaLiga title-holders.
Real Madrid’s old boys have still got it
Some things never change: another season begins and Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are still bossing games at the highest level. This is supposed to be a season of transition in the Real Madrid midfield — Aurelien Tchouameni is this summer’s high-profile new arrival, Eduardo Camavinga impressed off the bench last year and Fede Valverde has already forced his way into the team — but nobody told this age-defying midfield trio.
Madrid’s control of the middle of the pitch was key here, dominating possession and leaving Frankfurt chasing shadows. Casemiro caught the eye — his first-half header set up David Alaba with a straightforward finish for the opening goal, while he rattled the crossbar with a left-footed shot with an hour played — and Kroos produced a seamless display, moving the ball quickly and efficiently and consistently making smart choices, while Valverde was electric on the right-hand side.
This was the same XI that started the Champions League final, with coach Carlo Ancelotti opting to treat this game as a reward for the players who got Madrid here, and that meant summer signings Tchouameni and Antonio Rudiger were only required to make late cameos off the bench. This is a strong, well-balanced Real Madrid squad and while repeating last year’s glorious LaLiga and Champions League double is a tall order, you wouldn’t want to bet against it either.
Karim Benzema‘s legend keeps growing
There was a time, a decade ago, when Benzema was not thought to be enough of a predatory scorer to lead the line for Real Madrid. It seems absurd now, after his 324th goal for the club — beating an unsighted Kevin Trapp after being picked out by Vinicius Junior — saw him pull away from Raul Gonzalez into second place in Madrid’s all-time scoring charts, with only Cristiano Ronaldo out ahead of him.
Last season was Benzema’s best-ever scoring campaign, with 27 goals in LaLiga and a remarkable 15 in the Champions League, and in preseason so far, he’s shown no signs of letting up. He wasn’t at his most clinical here — he put one presentable opportunity wide in the first half when set up by Kroos — and there was an element of good fortune about the goal that put Madrid 2-0 up, with Trapp beaten far too easily, but Benzema will once again be the difference maker for the team this season. Only an injury would threaten his chances of producing another exceptional season, and the team’s chances of winning more silverware.
Another European trophy for Ancelotti
Carlo Ancelotti, the man who was as surprised as anyone to end up back in charge of Real Madrid last summer, added another trophy to his extensive collection here. The Italian is now the most successful coach in UEFA Super Cup history having won it four times, twice with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007, and now twice with Real Madrid in 2014 and this year.
His overall record in European competition is outstanding — nobody can touch his four Champions League titles as a manager, either — and he keeps proving critics who see him as little more than a successful man-manager wrong. This was a near-flawless performance against a Frankfurt team that are some way ahead of Madrid in their early season preparations, with their Bundesliga campaign already underway. There were also some clever tweaks to the team when the German side looked like getting on top in the first half, switching Valverde inside to give Madrid another body in central midfield.
Ancelotti is ideally suited to cope with the unique demands at the Bernabeu. He has said the prospect of losing his job holds no fear for him at this stage of his career, and he might just be the most popular coach the club have ever had. After working miracles this season, the pressure this year will be just as great — there’s no respite from the need to win trophies at Real Madrid, ever — and Ancelotti will deal with it as he always has, with unflappable calm.
Real Madrid: Thibaut Courtois 7; Dani Carvajal 6, David Alaba 7, Eder Militao 7, Ferland Mendy 7; Casemiro 8, Toni Kroos 8, Luka Modric 7; Fede Valverde 7, Vinicius Junior 7, Karim Benzema 7.
Subs: Rodrygo Goes 7, Eduardo Camavinga 7, Dani Ceballos 6, Aurelien Tchouameni 6, Antonio Rudiger 6.
Eintracht Frankfurt: Kevin Trapp 7; Almamy Toure 6, Tuta 7, Evan Ndicka 6; Ansgar Knauff 7, Sebastian Rode 6, Djibril Sow 6, Christopher Lenz 6; Jesper Lindstrom 5, Daichi Kamada 7, Rafael Borre 6.
Subs: Mario Gotze 6, Randal Muani 7, Lucas Alario 6.
BEST: Toni Kroos, Real Madrid
The German was often questioned last season, with many fans calling for the more dynamic Eduardo Camavinga to take his place and some speculation that this could be his last year at the club. He was at his effortless best here though. Frankfurt’s midfielders couldn’t get near him.
WORST: Jesper Lindstrom, Eintracht Frankfurt
It’s hard to pick out just one player from a disappointing team performance, but the wide man had very little joy up against Mendy and failed to make the most of the times he did get into promising positions.
Congrats to Benzema for his remarkable accomplishment: what better way to commemorate becoming your club’s second-highest scorer ever than with a nice tweet/graphic combo?
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) August 10, 2022
Yeah, good point by these guys (including ESPN’s Sid Lowe). Someone should look into this trio, they seem promising…
This Casemiro/Kroos/Modric midfield looks like it has potential
— The Spanish Football Podcast (@tsf_podcast) August 10, 2022
“It was a difficult game, at the start they were so close [together] with a low block and we had difficulty, but after we scored the first one at the end of the first half we had more control. We didn’t take risks, we didn’t play a game with super intensity but I think we had good control.”
“They’re used to playing together, they are comfortable, they know each other, so for them it’s simple to play together, to find the right time of the game to sometimes play a low block and use a counter attack, they’re so used to playing together.” — Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti
“We’re happy. We’ve had a good preseason, we’re ready, we’ve started well. There were one or two issues in defence but then we had a lot of chances to score with a larger margin. But the important thing is to win with a clean sheet, it’s our third final in 2022 and our third clean sheet, that’s very important.”
“The second half was calmer, they had one (chance) at the end but without too much difficulty. Good defensive work always helps. When we defend well we’ll always have a chance to win.” — Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois
With Real Madrid’s win, Carlo Ancelotti has tied Luis Molowny with the third-most trophies won by a manager in club history. Miguel Munoz is 1st with 14, followed by Zinedine Zidane with 11
The victory extends Real Madrid’s unbeaten streak: Ancelotti’s side are unbeaten in their last 31 games (entering today) when leading at HT (30-0-1); their last such loss came in the Copa del Rey, Jan 2021, against Alcorcón
Under Ancelotti, Real Madrid’s record when leading at HT is 78-1-3 W-L-D in all comps; the lone loss came against Valencia (Jan. 2015)
Karim Benzema’s remarkable year continues: he’s had 32 goal contributions (25 goals, 7 assists) in 24 games (all competitions) so far in 2022. Ballon d’Or, anyone?
Also, with his goal, Benzema passes Raul in Real Madrid’s all-time scoring charts (324). He is now alone in second place behind Cristiano Ronaldo (450)
Real Madrid: After victory in Helsinki, LaLiga’s champions open the 2022-23 season on Sunday at Almeria (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+) before traveling to Espanyol for their second league fixture (Aug. 20).
Eintracht Frankfurt: The Super Cup loss caps a chastening week for the German side, especially after losing 6-1 at home to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in their 2022-23 season opener. They’ll travel to Hertha Berlin (Saturday, 9:30 a.m. ET, ESPN+), followed by a home date with Koln (Aug. 21, 9:30 a.m. ET, ESPN+) in league play.