Real Madrid began the defence of their UEFA Champions League crown in dominant fashion as they beat AS Roma 3-0 at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.
Real Madrid dominated the game, pretty much from start to finish, with an astounding 30 shots over the course of the 90 minutes. But, AS Roma had Robin Olsen to thank for not only keeping the scoreline respectable but also giving them faint hopes for large parts of the match.
The deadlock though, was finally broken at the stroke of half-time as Isco curled a free-kick into the top left corner after being fouled by Daniele De Rossi. AS Roma hit the ground running at the start of the second half, as Cengiz Under forced Keylor Navas to make a fine stop.
But, that was only a false dawn as Real Madrid resumed their dominance, as Gareth Bale struck the crossbar not long after. Minutes later, the Welshman found the back of the net after being set up by Luka Modric. The win was finally rounded off when Mariano Diaz scored a sumptuous long-range curler in injury.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) September 19, 2018
Real Madrid now sit atop Group G after a near-perfect display, while Roma’s stuttering start to the season continued. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Julen Lopetegui’s men.
Keylor Navas: 8/10
Preferred to Thibaut Courtois for the Champions League opener, Navas had a point to prove after being benched in the last two league games. And, the 31-year-old was up to the task at hand, alert to every little chance that Roma could conjure up. Navas even made a couple of clutch saves with Real Madrid only a goal up, laying down the marker for future games.
Dani Carvajal: 7/10
A solid performance by the Spanish international, who posed a huge threat with his deliveries while making telling contributions at the back as well. The moment wherein he abandoned his position to deny Nicolo Zaniolo and Patrik Schick stands out. Could have come close with a free header, but that was one of the few little negatives in an accomplished performance.
Raphael Varane: 8/10
Another solid performance by Varane, who seems to be back to his domineering best after a slow start to the season. In an unassuming outing, the French international kept Edin Dzeko in check throughout the night, with the veteran striker offering absolutely nothing.
Sergio Ramos: 6/10
With AS Roma not threatening much on the night, Ramos ought to have been more solid on the night. But, while he organised the backline well for the most part, the Real Madrid captain was caught out of position a few times, which he needs to address.
On the other end, Ramos was one of several player who were left frustrated by Robin Olsen. The Spaniard also broke an unwanted record on the night, usurping Paul Scholes to become the most booked player in Champions League history.
A typical Marcelo performance, wherein the full-back was a constant threat in the final third while being vulnerable at the back at times. The fact that Cengiz Under was the most accomplished Roma outfield player is no coincidence.
But, with Varane and Navas covering his tracks, the Brazilian got away scot free. In the final third, he linked up well with Isco while playing the ball the led to Mariano’s goal.
Luka Modric: 8/10
Modric is slowly but surely getting back to his very best, and his performance on Wednesday was pretty indicative of that. The Croat kept things simple for the most part, but it was his perfectly weighted ball to Bale that stole the show and released the tension that was piling up on the back of a slender one-goal lead.
It may not have been Casemiro’s best performance in a Real Madrid shirt, but his presence in the middle of the park gave the side the sort of assurance that they needed to control the game perfectly. Caught out of position a couple of times, but that was perhaps his only undoing on the night.
Toni Kroos: 6.5/10
Another night when Kroos wasn’t quite at his best. After a strong start to the game, wherein he linked masterfully with Gareth Bale and almost set him up for a goal, the German petered out a little. He did control the tempo of the game well at times, but his delivery from set pieces often left a lot to be desired.
Gareth Bale: 8/10
For a long time on Wednesday night, Bale was the unluckiest player on the pitch, and it seemed as if he will not add to his Real Madrid tally. After missing a rather straightforward chance, the Welshman struck the crossbar from a stunning effort. But, he wasn’t to be denied on the night.
Gareth Bale scored his fifth goal of the season on Wednesday (all comps).
Last season, he didn't score his fifth goal until January. pic.twitter.com/sPwPID1Fs7
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 20, 2018
Found by Modric with a spectacular through ball, Bale still had a lot to do to grab the goal, and he produced a fine finish to cap off a frustrating performance. Bale has now been directly involved in 19 goals in 23 starts in Champions League group stage games (12 goals, 7 assists), and has taken another huge stride in ensuring Cristiano Ronaldo is not missed.
Karim Benzema: 6/10
A second successive performance wherein Benzema wasn’t at his best. While his link-up with Isco was delightful for the most part, the Frenchman was dropping a tad too deep at times. His first touch wasn’t at its best either, although the lack of goal can be chalked down to him not being bestowed with a meaningful chance.
However, rumours of Real Madrid’s pursuit of a striker may be back in full force if this turns into a drought in the games to come.
4 – Real Madrid players with the most direct free-kick attempts and goals in 2018 (all comps):
1 – Cristiano Ronaldo: 9/0
2 – Gareth Bale: 6/0
3 – Marco Asensio: 5/0
4 – ISCO ALARCON: 4/2
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 19, 2018
Rewarded for a strong performance last time out, Isco was a little slow off the blocks on the night. But, he soon gathered a head of steam, linking up strongly with Benzema, which eventually led to the free-kick that he converted. His deft touches and clever movement add dynamism to the Real Madrid attack, and his improving form bodes well for Lopetegui.
Marco Asensio: 7/10
Ever since Asensio was brought on, it looked like he had a point to prove, and it only led to entertaining football. One delightful turn and no-look shot nearly resulted in an extraordinary goal, but Olsen ended up denying him. Point well proven, though.
Mariano Diaz: 7/10
In what was his first appearance for Real Madrid since returning to the Bernabeu towards the end of the summer transfer window, Mariano provided a timely reminder of his abilities and was a livewire from the get-go. By the end of the night, it was a performance to savour for the ages, as he scored a marvellous goal that should give Lopetegui some food for thought.
Dani Ceballos: N/A
On for the final five minutes, Ceballos didn’t have much time to make an impact.