Julen Lopetegui heaps praise on Gareth Bale after Real Madrid's win over Getafe

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Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui hailed the performance of Gareth Bale after the Welshman scored one goal and created another in his team’s 2-0 win over Getafe on Sunday.

Bale’s cross was headed in by Dani Carvajal for Real’s opening goal in their first match of the new campaign in La Liga, and he later scored his side’s second at the Bernabeu.

“I was pleased with the team in general and Gareth put in a great performance,” said Lopetegui.

“Bale offers us solutions. He played well, like many of his teammates.”

Lopetegui added: “In the structure that we are trying to create, there are players with different characteristics and Gareth has his own.

“He gives us something different and we need to take advantage of that. We are delighted with how it’s going.”

Real’s next outing is away at Girona next Sunday evening.

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Julen Lopetegui rapidly leading Real Madrid from chaos towards control

Andy West 20/08/2018
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After the midweek drama of their Super Cup loss to local rivals Atletico, the league campaign started in a far more smooth style for Real Madrid with a 2-0 victory over Getafe which epitomised the phrase ‘routine home win’.

It was a far from spectacular performance from Julen Lopetegui’s team, who created few chances and scored their goals thanks to sloppy defensive errors – firstly goalkeeper David Soria weakly punching straight onto the head of Dani Carvajal, and then otherwise impeccable defender Djene Dakonam losing possession to Marco Asensio in the build-up to Gareth Bale’s second.

But the most significant aspect of the home team’s performance was at the other end of the field, where Getafe were unable to create any clear chances and never even looked like doing so.

This is a new development. Throughout Zinedine Zidane’s reign, and especially last season, Real were constantly vulnerable at the back. Even when they won games they looked in danger of conceding, always giving their opposition hope that goalscoring opportunities would come their way.

Los Blancos finished last season with 44 goals conceded in La Liga – double the tally of Atletico – and only kept consecutive clean sheets on two occasions. Their Champions League campaign was also nearly derailed by defensive frailties, with Juventus and Bayern Munich both only failing to knock out the eventual champions by squandering hatfuls of chances in narrow exits at the Bernabeu.

Life under Zidane in the latter stages of the Frenchman’s time in charge was a thrilling if unpredictable roller-coaster ride, with his team regularly appearing to be teetering on the verge of disaster before invariably somehow managing to rescue themselves with daredevil attacking play.

Although that haphazard approach was enough to secure dominance in Europe, it was insufficient to mount a meaningful challenge for the league title, reflected in Madrid’s third-place finish, 17 points behind Barcelona.

With the same personnel, however, it already appears that Lopetegui is giving his team much more solid defensive foundations, instigating a more cautious approach which can be summed up with one word: control.

Zidane’s teams, even at their best, rarely had control. They didn’t want it that way. They preferred wide open and chaotically fast-paced games which would allow their individual quality to shine through – and very often, that worked.

Lopetegui, in contrast, has already managed to extract a far more diligent and disciplined performance out of his team, who enjoyed 78.1% of possession against Getafe on Sunday night – their third-highest total for a decade and more than ever achieved under Zidane.

How was it done? Firstly, it’s worth noting that both Luka Modric and Casemiro were left on the bench while Toni Kroos was installed as the deep-lying ‘pivot’ in the centre of midfield, anchoring his team with authoritative passing ability: over the course of the game, the German international completed a remarkable 119 of his 121 attempted passes.

More than the contribution of individuals, however, the greater level of control exerted by Madrid in their first league game under Lopetegui was a collective achievement. The team was tighter and more compact, denying Getafe the space to play by sticking closer together and preventing any gaps from opening up.

Even Marcelo was restrained, spending the game closer to the halfway line than his usual preferred territory of the opposition penalty area, and the flamboyant Brazilian’s reticence to over-commit himself resonated throughout the team – only five of the 793 passes completed by Madrid came inside the Getafe penalty area, with the vast majority being played a few yards either side of the halfway line.

This conservative but orderly approach was also displayed by Lopetegui in his previous job with the Spanish national team, who conceded just three goals in ten games during the World Cup qualifying campaign, suggesting that Madrid fans should prepare themselves for many more games like the uninspiring but entirely efficient job they executed against Getafe on Sunday.

Of course, it’s dangerous to make long-term conclusions on the basis of just one game, and the poor performance of Getafe should be taken into account. But from what we saw this weekend, Lopetegui is rapidly leading his team from chaos towards control – and, to challenge on the domestic front, that could prove to be exactly what they need.

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Marco Asensio impressed with Real Madrid display in victory over Getafe

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Marco Asensio suggested Real Madrid‘s 2-0 win over Getafe was the best possible start to their La Liga season.

The hosts bounced back from their UEFA Super Cup defeat to Atletico Madrid thanks to goals in either half from Dani Carvajal and Gareth Bale.

Speaking after the game, Asensio said: “It was very important to do well. We played a complete game and this was the way to start in the league.

“The front three seemed more fluid and free without Cristiano Ronaldo in the team.

“We have a great team and are working well.

“We’ve had to turn the page and start a new season with great enthusiasm.”

The 22-year-old added: “Transfers aren’t up to me, that’s decided by the President and the coach.

“I have no voice or vote to decide that.”

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