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Winners & Losers

Everyone jump on Ceballos! Real Madrid winners, losers and ratings as comeback magic emerges in Copa del Rey win vs Villarreal

02:00 EAT 20/01/2023
Ceballos Real Madrid celebrate Villarreal 2022-23
Real Madrid trailed 2-0 at half-time, but scored three times in the last 45 minutes to complete a memorable turnaround against Villarreal on Thursday.

Dani Ceballos knew exactly where the ball was going to go. He took one step onto his left foot, before sweeping his strike with his right, curling it inside the post. It was a classy finish from a player who doesn't often score goals. It was a vital one, too, a strike to complete a 3-2 comeback over Villarreal in the Copa del Rey last 16 after losing the Super Cup final to Barcelona last weekend.

Real Madrid turned in a forgettable first-half performance, but did much better in the second, with Vinicius Junior, Eder Militao and Ceballos leading a massive turnaround to send Madrid to the last eight of the competition.

Villarreal were all over Real Madrid in the first half, and opened the scoring inside five minutes. Etienne Capoue burst into the box, corralled a flick from Gerard Moreno, and rifled the ball into the top corner.

Fede Valverde could have drawn Madrid level shortly after, but skied his shot with the goal gaping. And he was eventually made to pay, as Villarreal grabbed a second shortly before half-time. Samuel Chukwueze and Moreno played a neat one-two, with the latter smashing the ball past Thibaut Courtois.

But Madrid were a much changed side in the second half. They got one back just before the hour mark, with Vinicius Junior capping off a flowing move with a side-footed finish. Their second came 10 minutes later, after Militao reacted first to a loose ball inside the Villarreal box. And Ceballos added the crucial third with five minutes remaining, driving the ball into the corner before diving to the ground to welcome a pile of team-mates.

  • Ceballos Real Madrid celebrate Copa del Rey Villarreal 2022-23

    The Winners

    Vinicius Junior:

    The Brazilian has been poor of late, and really needed his goal here. It was a lovely move, a series of short passes followed by a composed finish. In truth, this was far from Vini's best showing, as he'd been given a tricky evening by Juan Foyth. But when the Villarreal left-back was removed with an injury, Vini had more room to operate. He could've had a second in the 60th minute after closing down Filip Jorgensen and giving himself an open goal, but was adjudged, perhaps unfortunately, to have fouled the Villarreal goalkeeper.

    Dani Ceballos:

    An unlikely hero for Madrid as the Spaniard came on and really changed things. He entered the game in the 56th minute for Toni Kroos, who was having a morbid evening, and steadily made his mark. Ceballos offered a sense of composure that Madrid had been missing throughout the first 45 minutes, and linked up well with Vinicius on the left side. His winning goal was a thing of beauty, too, a terrific finish into the bottom corner to cap off a deserved comeback that brought back pleasant memories of what Madrid repeatedly pulled off in tournament settings last campaign.

    Gerard Moreno:

    It is perhaps of little consolation that Moreno had another standout showing against Real Madrid. But he was terrific for Villarreal Thursday night, pulling the Madrid back-line apart and providing two assists for the home side as they put in a memorable first-half performance. His flick to Capoue for the first was fantastic, while his one-two with Chukwueze for the second was even better. He can hardly be blamed for Villarreal's second half collapse, either.

  • Nacho Real Madrid Villarreal 2022-23

    The Losers


    The 33-year-old had a chance to show he can still cut it on Thursday night, and didn't exactly take it. Nacho struggled to adapt to the pace of the game, and had a tough time against the marauding Alberto Moreno in the first half. He was caught in no-man's land for Villarreal's second, too. He tightened things up a bit in the second half, but was mostly a spectator as Madrid made a comeback.

    Fede Valverde:

    Finally, a chance for the Uruguayan to make his mark in centre-midfield. Luka Modric received a night off, and Aurelien Tchouameni was not even on the bench. Everything seemed set up for Valverde to show exactly why he is Madrid's centre-midfielder of the future. But Valverde never truly got going. He ran relentlessly, flew into some tackles, and tried to be expansive on the ball. But his quality was lacking, highlighted by a big chance missed in the first half. It's been a poor month for the 24-year-old.

    Quique Setien

    The Villarreal manager must have thought that he'd done everything right. His team was rampant in the first half, tearing Madrid's makeshift back-four apart. They led 2-0, but it could have easily been three or four. And then, the second half. Nothing tangible changed about Villarreal's play after the break. They were still intense and eager to attack. But they simply failed to stop the inevitable Madrid response. Setien was made to watch while his side too often squandered possession, and allowed the Madrid midfield to dictate the game. It was likely a frustrating 45 minutes.

  • Eder Militao Real Madrid Villarreal 2022-23

    Real Madrid Ratings: Defence

    Thibaut Courtois (5/10):

    Couldn't do much about either goal, but can be faulted for some shoddy distribution.

    Nacho (4/10):

    Forced to deputise in the absence of Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vasquez, and looked like a past-his-best backup.

    Eder Militao (7/10):

    A rare standout in an otherwise misfiring back four. Won most of his duels, made 12 recoveries and grabbed himself a goal, too.

    Antonio Rudiger (5/10):

    Another forgettable performance from the German. Couldn't deal with the trickery of Moreno and was run ragged by Villarreal's energetic wide players.

    Ferland Mendy (6/10):

    Had a real stinker against Villarreal last time, and was a bit better here. Covered for Vini as the Brazilian worked his magic in the second half.

  • Midfield

    Fede Valverde (5/10):

    Given a chance to stake his claim to a midfield spot and pretty much threw it away. A frustrating night for a notable talent, but he'll surely rediscover his best at some point.

    Toni Kroos (5/10):

    Never got into any sort of rhythm. Gave the ball away a lot. Deservedly substituted. Uncharacteristically poor, but he will be back.

    Eduardo Camavinga (7/10):

    A much improved performance from a player who has struggled in recent weeks. Tidy, if unambitious, in possession, won the ball back with regularity, and was involved in the build up for two of Madrid's goals.

  • Vinicius Junior Real Madrid Villarreal 2022-23


    Rodrygo (5/10):

    Allegedly on the pitch for an hour. Had a nice shot.

    Karim Benzema (6/10):

    Missed a chance that he would usually bury, which encapsulated his recent struggles. Hit the post after slightly mistiming a header. Had some nice moments with Vinicius, though. The goals will come.

    Vinicius Junior (7/10):

    Much-improved from the Brazilian winger. Scored a lovely goal and was threatening going forward.

  • Carlo Ancelotti Real Madrid Villarreal 2022-23

    Subs & Manager

    Marco Asensio (6/10):

    Assisted the winner.

    Dani Ceballos (8/10):

    Transformative. Scored a great goal. Occasionally has these performances.

    Carlo Ancelotti (6/10):

    A confusing one from Ancelotti. Put out his strongest possible XI with an injury crippled squad, and saw his team battered in the first half. Did well to introduce Ceballos and Asensio, and clearly said something of vague importance at half time. A win is a win.