Real Madrid finally started Vinicius Junior, and the 19-year-old made the most out of his opportunity to impress – and then some.
Vinicius Junior received his first La Liga start in more than a month, and the Real Madrid youngster was the best player on the pitch. He consistently threatened Espanyol’s back line and forced Diego Lopez into frequent stops. While Vinicius didn’t grab a goal, he was Real’s danger man from the first minute until his substitution in the 85th after Ferland Mendy’s red card.
According to WhoScored.com, Vinicius had four shots, four key passes, and five dribbles completed in a scintillating attacking performance. He set the tone early for Real, making brilliant runs down the left-hand side, as the likes of Casemiro made sure to hit him with frequent long balls to stretch the Espanyol defense.
And Espanyol simply could not handle Vinicius. Off the ball, Vinicius was fantastic, clearly showing the critics that he isn’t lacking in the decision-making department. Criticisms of Vinicius’ decision-making are honestly unfounded and simply a means of people to discredit him. If Vinicius struggles in any area, it’s consistency with his technique, especially when it comes to more difficult shots from the left-hand side.
Vinicius could have done better with his left foot when aiming for the goal, and he would often try to shoot on his right without getting enough “bend” on the ball. Thus, some of Vinicius’ chances went begging.
But Vinicius’ opportunities on goal were more difficult than they looked. He also looked to square for Karim Benzema whenever it was actually possible, even setting up the superstar striker for one clear-cut chance that the league’s leading goal-scorer surprisingly flashed wide with a first-time turn.
The four key passes exemplify how often Vinicius would look to set up teammates. So many counterattacks were created for Real by Vinicius getting wide, positioning himself perfectly for the pass, and accelerating into space once he got the ball.
Vinicius was the main source of attacking power for Los Blancos against Espanyol, and if his teammates were more up to the task of getting on his wavelength to join these counters, Real would have scored more goals. Zinedine Zidane emphasizes intensity, and it seems like only Vinicius and Benzema truly brought intensity in this game.
If there were any concerns or rumors about Vinicius, he dispelled them all with this thoroughly impressive performance. Vinicius shined brighter than any other Real Madrid player and was instrumental in this win, showing off his quality, work rate, and advanced understanding of the game. Fans seem to underrate how much further along Vinicius is than most young players, and it’s why teams like PSG have a great deal of interest in prying him from Real Madrid.
But Vini isn’t going anywhere. Real understand the quality he has, and this game was a statement-making performance that reminded the Bernabeu faithful how special Vinicius Junior is.