Gareth Bale shown like a million stars as goals from Benzema, Kroos and Vasquez handed ten-men Real Madrid a comfortable 3-1 away victory at the Balaidos on Saturday afternoon.
With a number of key players missing including new signings Ferland Mendy and Eden Hazard, Zinedine Zidane’s side delivered a sweet away victory to start the campaign – which momentarily put them ahead of rivals Barcelona thanks to the Catalans defeat at Athletic Bilbao yesterday.
Zidane, in his first Real Madrid XI of the season, handed the Welsh outcast a surprise start on the flank opposite Vinicius, with Benzema leading the line. Courtois was protected by a back four of Odriozola, Varane, Ramos and Marcelo, while the boss went with the predictable trio of Modric, Casemiro and Kroos in the midfield.
Celta Vigo started the brighter of the two and won a free-kick in the very first minute after Ramos pulls Kevin Vazquez back – impeding the full-back’s path into the penalty area. It was in a good position for a cross, but Celta couldn’t capitalise, as Ramos was there to atone for his earlier infringement as he headed the delivery away emphatically.
Madrid’s first sight of goal came 5 minutes later when Modric laid a pass to Bale on the right flank before the Wales international put a cross to the near post for Benzema, who saw his tame shot go out for a goal-kick.
A few minutes later, Madrid were ahead. Benzema it was who turned the ball home but all the plaudits was to Bale whose incredible slaloming run saw him lose two defenders before centering a low cross into the six-yard box. The pass pulled the goalkeeper out of position – allowing Benzema to tuck it away neatly.
Gol! Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) pic.twitter.com/5eEjLFX9yR
— LEO SOARES (@leosoar26175947) August 17, 2019
Bale should have gotten the goal his first half performance deserved when the Wales captain was sent through by a beautiful sliced pass from Kroos into the home side’s penalty area with only Olaza defending him. His shot however came from an acute angle but Blanco was still required to fully stretch in order to tip it around the post.
The first half came to a close with Real Madrid the happier of the two sides, having led by a 1-0 scoreline.
Los Blancos had seen much less possession, but remained calm and compact in midfield, forcing Celta’s attack to come down the wings.
Benzema finish. Bale assist 👀
Real Madrid have their first La Liga goal of the season ⚽ pic.twitter.com/R6iSf6ykJg
— B/R Football (@brfootball) August 17, 2019
It should have been two shortly after the restart.
Marcelo kept the ball in play with a lovely turn at the byline and laid it back for Benzema. The striker went for placement with the first-time hit, but he could only drag his shot inches wide.
The game’s controversial moment arrived on the hour mark as through the help of the VAR, the referee showed Modric a red card.
The visitors had to play the remaining30 minutes with 10 men.
Real Madrid were understandably incensed but VAR review showed that Modric’s challenge on Celta’s Suarez could be deemed violent play.
Luka Modrić has been shown a straight red card for the first time in his 16-year senior career.
Just the second time he's been sent off. 😩 pic.twitter.com/U3td858xxd
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 17, 2019
Immediately, Celta Vigo with a man advantage were pumped up and Madrid needed Courtois to be at his best to make a phenomenal reaction save off a point-blank header from an unmarked Araujo.
When an equalizer appeared inevitable, Toni Kroos produced a goal of the highest quality.
The German took a step inside after receiving a pass from Marcelo and hammered an absolute thunderbolt from 40 yards out which smashed off the underside of the crossbar and over the line.
No goalkeeper in the world would have saved a shot of that quality.
But Real were not done. With 10 minutes left of play Lucas Vazquez made it 3-0 to Madrid.
Sisto was caught in possession ahead of his own penalty area. Zizou’s men immediately pressed into the penalty area where Benzema’s beautiful turn opened up a lane for Lucas Vazquez to receive the ball and slot past Blanco.
Game. Set. And match.
Iker Losada got the home side a late goal but it was too little too late as Real Madrid leapfrogged Barcelona to the top of the league table on the opening La Liga weekend.