Federico Valverde and Marco Asensio stood out as Real Madrid beat Celtic 5-1 to clinch the top spot in the UEFA Champions League Group F.
Celtic looked to take the game to Real Madrid from the get-go, but their spirit will have been deflated when they conceded an early penalty. A promising move by Real Madrid ended with a penalty call as Moritz Jenz handled the ball from a scruffy Federico Valverde effort. And Luka Modric made no error in converting from the spot in the sixth minute.
Real Madrid then dominated the proceedings before winning another penalty, with Matt O’Riley handling the ball this time. Rodrygo Goes, whose shot O’Riley had blocked, stepped up to take the penalty and added his name to the score sheet. But Celtic would not go down without a fight and forced Thibaut Courtois into several sharp saves.
The pick of the lot came from the spot, with the first half being penalty season after Ferland Mendy brought Liel Abada down. But Courtois was at hand to deny Josip Juranovic. Real Madrid took that moment as a wake-up call and put the game to bed early in the second half through goals from Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior.
Federico Valverde then rounded off the win with a sharp finish in the 71st minute. But Celtic netted the last goal as Jota converted a sumptuous free-kick to salvage a consolation strike. While Real Madrid could not keep a clean sheet, they did enough to top the UEFA Champions League Group F. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
Thibaut Courtois: 8/10
5 – Thibaut Courtois 🇧🇪 has saved 5 of the last 10 penalties he has faced for @realmadriden in all competitions (excluding penalty shootouts), including the last two in the Champions League, having saved just one of his first 18 penalties for Los Blancos. Giant. pic.twitter.com/9ZuMMN5LgS
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 2, 2022
Courtois had a busy outing against Celtic as he produced a string of saves to keep Real Madrid comfortable in the game. The standout moment for the Belgian goalkeeper was when he denied Josip Juranovic from the spot after Ferland Mendy had conceded a penalty.
Dani Carvajal: 7/10
Carvajal had a few problems dealing with an inspired Celtic attack. But Marco Asensio supported him well and he repaid that by keeping the ball alive when the Spanish attacker scored Real Madrid’s third goal. It was a solid outing for the most part.
Eder Militao: 6/10
Eder Militao returned to the starting lineup and had a busy outing at the heart of the Real Madrid defence. He lost his marker on a couple of occasions. But one last-man tackle and several clearances also helped Real Madrid remain comfortable. All in all, it was a decent showing by the Brazilian.
David Alaba: 6/10
While Eder Militao had a few scares, Alaba intriguingly enjoyed a quiet evening, with the Celtic attackers not testing him much. The Austrian international did make two blocks, but that was as busy as he got on Wednesday.
Ferland Mendy: 6/10
Mendy was lucky to see Courtois bail him out after he conceded a penalty with a clumsy challenge on Liel Abada. But that was the only instance when the Frenchman put a foot wrong as he completed all 76 of his attempted passes. Mendy also completed a couple of clearances.
Federico Valverde: 9/10
◎ Fede Valverde's first 148 games for Real Madrid: 6 goals
◉ Fede Valverde in 18 games this season: 8 goals
Two more and Don Carlo keeps his coaching license. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/sfApCvT4Gd
— Squawka (@Squawka) November 2, 2022
Valverde, the player to watch in our preview, made a rare appearance from the midfield. But that did not stop the Uruguayan international from continuing his scoring run. The in-form midfielder produced a sharp finish to round off the win for Real Madrid in the 71st minute. And Valverde also set the ball rolling by forcing Moritz Jenz to handle the ball for the first penalty.
Toni Kroos: 7/10
Toni Kroos was and Toni Kroos usually is in most games. The German international, who sat at the base of the midfield in the absence of Aurelien Tchouameni, barely misplaced a pass and opened play nicely by completing every long ball. But he was not solid in the defensive phases, with Celtic overrunning him with ease a few times.
Luka Modric: 8/10
With Kroos sitting deep, Modric pulled the strings from the middle of the park. The Croat completed 90 per cent of his attempted passes while opening play nicely with a few long balls. And he also celebrated the goal to go along with a professional midfield display with an early penalty, meaning he scored both home and away against Celtic.
Marco Asensio: 9/10
Marco Asensio’s game by numbers vs. Celtic:
94% pass accuracy
63 passes completed
5 key passes
2/2 crosses completed
2/2 ground duels won
1 big chance created
Bravo. 👏 pic.twitter.com/0NeybIChAE
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) November 2, 2022
Asensio earned only his second start of the season, but he might have done enough to get his campaign back on track. The Spaniard ran the show from the right flank, playing a game-high five key passes.
He also worked hard off the ball and supported Carvajal on his flank. But the standout moment for Asensio was the powerfully-driven strike that went into the back of the net. With recent reports claiming that Real Madrid might offer Asensio a new contract, he might end up staying at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Rodrygo Goes: 8/10
With Karim Benzema not fit enough to start, Rodrygo Goes reprised a central role again. And the Brazilian international revelled in the position, earning and converting a first-half penalty. He also set a brilliant chance for Vinicius after taking multiple Celtic defenders out of the game. Nonetheless, it was a solid outing for Rodrygo.
Vinicius Junior: 7/10
It was a game where Vinicius Junior could have scored a hat trick. But despite his profligacy, the Brazilian international managed to find the back of the net from Valverde’s cross. However, he would know that he should have done better with two other openings, including one where Rodrygo had done all the hard work before setting up the chance.
Vinicius Jr. has scored or assisted 5 goals in his last 4 appearances:
🅰️🅰️ vs. Sevilla
⚽ vs. RB Leipzig
⚽ vs. Girona
⚽ vs. Celtic
Running riot. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/V4OsqF7BCj
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) November 2, 2022
Karim Benzema: 6/10
Benzema came off the bench to gain some sharpness and end a frustrating period of layoffs due to injuries. And the Frenchman came close to scoring, only for Carl Starfelt to deny him with a goal-line block. He has unbelievably ended the group stage without a goal or an assist.
Lucas Vazquez: 7/10
Lucas Vazquez came off the bench to produce a decent cameo in the game’s final quarter. He was busy on the right flank and grabbed the assist for the goal that Valverde scored. A solid effort by the Spaniard.
Dani Ceballos: 6/10
Ceballos kept things simple and completed nearly all his attempted passes after replacing Modric. But the Spaniard also created a decent opening, which did not yield a goal.
Nacho spent most of his cameo in the Celtic half, such was Real Madrid’s dominance. And the Spaniard was barely involved in any defensive moments.
Jesus Vallejo: N/A
Vallejo replaced Militao for the final 15 minutes and was a busy customer in the game’s dying embers. But he stood up to the task well.