The UEFA Champions League winners found themselves behind to a Borja Garcia goal in the 17 minute of their second La Liga fixture of the season before a brace from Karim Bezema and goals from Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos sealed a win for the Los Blancos.
“Both halves were tricky. Girona have a good collective game, they started well got an early goal and could have had another,” Lopetegui told Spanish TV station Movistar following his side’s win.
“Then we got two penalties. We deserved them because we were playing to win and had a hatful of chances,” he added.
The former Spain national team coach hailed his side’s calmness under moments of pressure as the reason for their comeback win.
“We kept calm under pressure and played well enough in the second half to deserve the victory. We were flying forwards too quickly in the first half, we were too keen to attack. We were calm and clear and had plenty of space. When we have that this team gets going, it works and the goals start to flow,” he explained.
“This time it was Gareth, Karim and Sergio, but we don’t mind who gets them as long as we get them.”
Real Madrid have big gaping hole to fill to replace the goals of the prolific Cristiano Ronaldo who joined Serie A champions Juventus in a big-money summer move. With Real signing no like-for-like replacement for the Portuguese star who scored a whopping 450 goals in 438 games for the club, the pressure on the remaining stars like Bale and Benzema has increased exponentially.
While Lopetegui believes that replacing Ronaldo’s goals will not be a problem for the club if they keep up their Girona display, he is already growing in stature with some of the decisions he has taken so far.
The Real Madrid coach left the likes of Luka Modric, Raphael Varane and Thibaut Courtois on the bench on Sunday while taking off left-back Marcelo around the 60th minute mark.
Spanish daily Marca stated that Lopetegui has shown that he was not “afraid to make unpopular decisions for the best of the team” and “proved he was in charge”.
Julen Lopetegui emphasised the strength of the Real Madrid‘s group rather choosing to elevate individuals after his side rallied from a goal down to see off Girona 4-1.
Real came undone at the Montilivi last season, beaten 2-1 despite taking an early lead, but refused to allow a repeat in their second Primera Division outing under the former Spain boss.
Borja Garcia’s fine finish hinted at history repeating itself but the visitors responded with four unanswered goals to take the points.
Two penalties either side of half-time – a nerveless ‘Panenka’ from Sergio Ramos and something more conventional from Karim Benzema – reversed the lead before Gareth Bale’s strike and a second of the game from the French forward.
Any of the three might have claimed the limelight – Ramos for scoring in his 15th consecutive season, Bale for making it two in two games or Benzema for showing a modest Liga campaign in 2017/18 may be out of his system.
But Lopetegui’s reacton suggested Real’s post-Cristiano Ronaldo years may focus more on the unit.
“The team is the one that works and when it works, the goals come in the form of Gareth, Karim or Sergio,” he told Movistar.
“The important thing is that they arrive, not who gets them, the team has made collective sense.
“I emphasise the mentality of the team. The match was difficult. In a hard moment of the game we have shown we know how to play.”
Lopetegui once again left summer signing Thibaut Courtois out in favour of Keylor Navas, a situation that is unlikely to persist given the former Chelsea number one’s status.
When, or if, the change will be made was unlikely to be revealed after a solid showing from the Costa Rican shot-stopper, though.
“We will see how the goalkeeper rotation evolves,” said the coach.
“I have three excellent goalkeepers and we see it as good solutions. Today Keylor has done very well and we will see what happens in the future. I have things in my head about goalkeepers but I’m going to say nothing.”
He was similarly vague about World Cup finalists Raphael Varane and Luka Modric, who have not started either league game since returning later than most from their exploits in Russia.
“Varane and Modric will be train little by little in the team. We have alternatives and competition and that’s good for the team,” offered the manager.
Atletico Madrid secured their first win of the new season on Saturday with a 1-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano, but Diego Simeone acknowledged his team aren’t close to being where they want to be due to the short pre-season as a result of the World Cup.
“We know that pre-season was a difference pre-season and now we have to work during the year to recover the lost pace we didn’t have during the pre-season,” Simeone said.
See Simeone’s full comments in the video below.