A ten-man Real Madrid made a near perfect start to the season as they cruised to a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo at Balaidos on Saturday.
Missing a number of players due to injuries and suspension, Real Madrid fielded a slightly weakened side. But, the visitors started off strongly, pushing Celta Vigo back before grabbing the lead in the 12th minute through Karim Benzema.
Noticeable, it was Gareth Bale who created the impact, setting Benzema up after some fine work at the edge of the Celta Vigo box. Bale continued to look dangerous, with Real Madrid the better of the two sides, but Fran Escriba’s men could have had the equaliser at the stroke of half-time, if VAR had not intervened.
After a comical error from Alvaro Odriozola, Denis Suarez capitalised before the ball eventually reached Brais Mendez, who tapped into the goal. But, the goal was subsequently ruled out for offside, as Real Madrid held on to their slender advantage heading into half-time.
Coming out of the break, Los Blancos continued to look the more threatening of the two sides. But, they received a setback just 10 minutes in, as Luka Modric was sent off for a foul on Suarez, after it was determined that the Croat had caught his midfield counterpart on the Achilles.
However, instead of being bogged down by the numerical disadvantage, Real Madrid somehow took the game by the scruff of its neck, with Toni Kroos scoring a thunderbolt of a goal just past the hour mark. The visitors then put the game to bed ten minutes from time, as Lucas Vazquez finished off a fine team move.
Celta Vigo though, scored the final goal of the game, as Iker Losada produced a fine finish to beat Thibaut Courtois. But, Real Madrid ended up as comfortable victors, which has taken them to the top of the table. With the Merengues set to finish a La Liga matchday ahead of Barcelona for the first time in 27 months, The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Zinedine Zidane’s men.
Thibaut Courtois: 8/10
Courtois projected a lot of confidence ahead of the season, proclaiming that he is now the clear first-choice goalkeeper for Real Madrid. And, he exuded the same belief in his abilities on Saturday, making fine saves to deny Iago Aspas and Nestor Araujo, while commanding his area well. So good was he against Celta Vigo, in fact, that it took a perfect finish for Iker Losada to beat him late on.
Alvaro Odriozola: 5/10
With Dani Carvajal suspended, this was Odriozola’s opportunity to show that the least he deserved was to share game time with his compatriot. But, the young right-back seemed out of his depth at times, with Denis Suarez winning the duel. Lucky to be let off after his error seemed to have gifted the hosts a way back into the game before VAR intervened.
Raphael Varane: 7/10
Alongside Sergio Ramos and Casemiro, Varane formed a solid trifecta in the central areas that saw Real Madrid stave off the Celta Vigo attack without much of a fuss. Comfortable on the ball and off it, the Frenchman looks the polar opposite from his stuttering self of last season. A solid start to the season.
Sergio Ramos: 8/10
A commanding performance from the Real Madrid captain, who had the tricky task of stopping the dangerous Aspas. But, the Spanish striker just could not get the better of Ramos on the day, with the veteran defender boasting solid numbers as well – 2 tackles, 4 clearances, and 1 interception.
Coming off one of his worst ever campaigns in senior football, Marcelo needed to make a statement with Ferland Mendy now at the club. And, the Brazilian did just that, as he was central to just about everything Real Madrid did going forward, making a team-high 4 key passes.
In fact, Marcelo was central to all three goals, doing much of the work in the build-up before Gareth Bale assisted Karim Benzema, before directly assisting Toni Kroos. But, it was his flick leading up to Lucas Vazquez’s goal that stood out. Did leave some space in behind him, but all in all, this was a bright start to the season. In such form, he is one of the pivotal players for Real Madrid.
Luka Modric: 6/10
Modric was in his elements for much of his stay on the pitch, looking much better than he did at any point of time last season. Alongside Kroos, the Croat controlled the game for large parts of the first hour, although Fran Beltran did have his number at times too. Sent off for a straight red for the first time ever in La Liga, although it looked like a harsh decision.
Casemiro was one of several Real Madrid stalwarts who had a season to forget last term. But, like most of his companions on Saturday, the Brazilian started the season in fine fashion. Apart from a nervy moment or two, the 27-year-old was a colossal presence in the middle of the park. Broke off a Celta Vigo move before sparking his own side’s, which ended up with Benzema’s goal.
Toni Kroos: 8.5/10
A typical performance by Kroos, who quietly went about his business. Did go under the radar till he scored his brilliant long-range goal, but that is exactly what he excels at, going about his job in a discreet and diligent manner that helps Real Madrid control the game.
As for his goal, it was a thing of beauty, beating Ruben Blanco all ends up with a powerfully driven shot. Took the game by the scruff of its neck thereafter, pulling the strings beautifully following the dismissal of Luka Modric.
Gareth Bale: 8.5/10
After a turbulent summer that saw Bale nearly leave Real Madrid, this was the chance he was craving for to prove his naysayers wrong. His directness had the Celta Vigo defenders constantly back pedalling and it was effort on the edge of the box that led to Benzema’s goal.
His twists and turns had the defenders turning inside out and he very nearly had a goal for himself, only to be denied by Blanco. With Eden Hazard out for some weeks, it is now up to Bale to prove that he can be a real game changer for Real Madrid this season going forward.
Vinicius Junior: 6/10
Not the best of performances from Vinicius Junior, who flitted in and out of the game. While the young Brazilian had a few notable moments when he was a tricky proposition for the opposition defender, he also seemed to be on the periphery at times. The first player to be hooked off.
Karim Benzema: 8/10
Benzema does not seem to have missed a step after a brilliant 2018-19 season. The Frenchman has now started the latest campaign on a strong note as well, with a goal and an assist to cap off a solid outing. Showed great instinct to latch onto Bale’s pass, while his pass for Vazquez’s goal was perfectly weighted. Such a dangerous presence on the pitch.
Karim Benzema’s game by numbers vs. Celta Vigo:
95% pass accuracy
3 aerial duels won
2 take-ons completed
A winning start to the season. pic.twitter.com/QarBrUFvaj
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 17, 2019
Lucas Vazquez: 7/10
One of Zidane’s trusted lieutenants proved to be a steady customer off the bench once again. For much of his stint on the pitch, the Spaniard posed a danger and he finished off a brilliant team move with a fine finish. Clinical and astute – everything the Real Madrid boss needs him to be.
On for the final 15 minutes, Isco instantly brought himself into the game, helping his side control the game even better. Made 18 passes, with a pass accuracy of 95 percent. A solid cameo.
Luka Jovic: N/A
On for the final 10 minutes, Jovic did not get involved a great deal in his competitive debut for Real Madrid.