Real Madrid began the 2022-23 season in the most comprehensive fashion, defeating SK Sturm Graz 6-0 in Round 1 of the UWCL Qualifier Semi-Final.
Alberto Toril went in with what I believe to be the strongest possible XI he could have chosen, starting Caroline Weir, Claudia Zornoza, and Sandie Toletti in midfield, while Athenea del Castillo, Naomie Feller, and Esther González made up the front three.
Although Madrid did score six goals, the margin could’ve been even bigger. Las Blancas rattled the crossbar as many as three times, while there were countless more goalscoring chances created. Full player ratings below:
GK: Misa Rodríguez — 6/10: Had technically no contribution whatsoever as Real Madrid dominated most of the possession. She wasn’t tested by Sturm Graz attackers even once.
RB: Kenti Robles — 8.5/10: A brilliant game from the Mexican. As with every Madrid defender on the night, she wasn’t tested much defensively. However, she was very quick in her recoveries and was really good while pressing high up the pitch. A constant menace from the right flank and assisted Esther’s 2nd goal in the 52nd minute.
RCB: Kathellen Sousa — 8/10: A very assuring debut from the Brazilian centre-back. She mopped up a lot of loose balls when Real Madrid lost possession, which helped the team regain possession in a matter of seconds.
LCB: Ivana Andrés — 8/10: Her ball progression was really good and it was actually her lofted pass to Athenea in the 15th minute that led to the opening goal of the night. Ivana wasn’t needed much defensively, but still ensured that she gave it her all.
LB/LW: Olga Carmona — 7/10: Olga started at left back and put in a decent shift. In the first half, she didn’t have a big role offensively, but did get more involved in the second half, when she moved higher up the pitch to play as a winger.
RCM: Sandie Toletti — 7.5/10: A promising debut from the Frenchwoman, who slotted in perfectly alongside Claudia Zornoza. She was replaced by Teresa Abelleira at halftime.
LCM: Claudia Zornoza — 8/10: Picked up right where she left off last season, putting in another masterful performance from midfield. Her ability to find outlets at will was once again on display.
CAM: Caroline Weir — 7.5/10: Weir built on her fantastic performances in preseason with a pretty decent showing in her official debut for Real Madrid. Her ability to get others involved in the game helped the team conjure a lot of danger in the final third. Weir could’ve had a goal of her own in the 11th minute, when she was 1v1 with the keeper, but couldn’t keep the shot on target using her weaker right foot. Overall, a very positive performance.
RW: Naomie Feller — 6.5/10: Feller had a memorable debut as she scored a goal after some amazing work by Esther in the box. She showed a lot of energy and desire, but she didn’t have a very big impact on proceedings outside her strike. Was replaced by Sofie Svava at the break.
ST: Esther González — 10/10: This is going to be Estherminator’s season! The forward scored four goals, becoming the first player in Real Madrid Femenino history to bag a poker. She could’ve had six goals had she got her 18th-minute header from a rebound on target and had her shot in the 40th minute not hit the crossbar. Esther got replaced by Nahikari García in the 69th minute, but could have easily added another goal to her tally had she played the full 90 minutes.
LW/RW: Athenea del Castillo — 8.5/10: The first half from Athenea was just incredible. She was running at defenders, got an assist, and was doing more defensive work than all the defenders combined. After she moved to the right wing at the start of the second half, she became quieter, but got a much-deserved goal in the 74th minute.
LCM: Teresa Abelleira — 6.5/10 (replaced Toletti; 46′): Came on for Sandie Toletti to play the second half and did a fairly decent job in the middle of the pitch.
LB: Sofie Svava — 7/10 (replaced Feller; 46′): Assisted Esther’s third goal and had a good performance to start the season with.
RCM: Maite Oroz — 6/10 (replaced Zornoza; 59′): Was secure in possession but didn’t really have to do much after coming on from the bench.
CAM/SS: Caroline Møller Hansen — 6.5/10 (replaced Weir; 67′): Demanded a lot of the ball and tried to get into spaces to act as an outlet higher up the pitch. She assisted Athenea’s goal.
ST: Nahikari García — N/A (replaced Esther; 74′): Didn’t have much time to have an impact.