Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has revealed his delight at making his eagerly-awaited debut for the club.
Since signing from Chelsea last month, the Belgian World Cup star has had to bide his time to get the chance to displace Keylor Navas.
But Courtois was finally handed the gloves during the 4-1 success over Leganes – and he was naturally ecstatic about finally making his breakthrough.
💬 @thibautcourtois: “I’m delighted to have made my debut for the best team in the world. Training is great but walking out on to the pitch at the Bernabéu is something else. I’ve waited for this moment for a long time.” #HalaMadrid pic.twitter.com/ZNFv33uO3O
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) September 2, 2018
Gareth Bale set the ball rolling for the home side before Leganes drew level from the penalty spot, but Karim Benzema struck twice in the second half before Sergio Ramos completed the scoring, also with a penalty.
“We played well aside from a small spell in the first half,” Lopetegui told a post-match press conference. “They were able to catch us by surprise and get the penalty, we were rushing things a bit.
“In the second half though, the team played well generally, with goals, chances and conceding very little to the opposition.
“We’re getting to know each other better as time goes by and we’re able to instil this collective attitude of attacking and defending as a team. The players are understanding what we ask of them very well and they have the ability to improve further.
“Now we’ll lose a load of players to international duty, but training is a chance to keep growing every day. Ratings are best saved for the end of the season, I’ll focus on the hunger and the passion this group has shown to work hard. They want to work and improve in every training session and we’re thrilled with their attitude.”
Lopetegui was reluctant to single out the efforts of Bale and Benzema, but added: “Goals are the responsibility of the entire team.
“There are players who find them easier to come by but it’s something the whole team must help with and that’s what we’re trying to get across. Whoever scores them, we’re absolutely delighted, and not just for the goal scorer, but because it contributes to this sense of the group that we’re working towards.
“We’ll be pleased whoever is scoring. Benzema is a wonderful player, it’s all down to him and his goals are helping the team and I’m sure he’ll continue.”
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) September 1, 2018
Former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois made his debut for Real in place of Keylor Navas and insisted there was no problem between the two players.
“Keylor and I both give it our all in every training session to be ready and then it’s down to the boss to decide who will play,” Courtois said. “The competition helps us to give it our best. We’re at the best club in the world and there has to be competition.
“Whenever Keylor has played he’s done a great job and I think I did well today too. It’s the best possible thing for the team. The press are looking for controversy where it doesn’t exist. We get on very well and wish each other luck. There’s no problem there at all.
“I’m very happy, the key thing was to get the win before the international break. I’m delighted to have made my debut for the best team in the world. Training is great but walking out on to the pitch at the Bernabeu is something else. I’ve waited for this moment for a long time.”
Gareth Bale opened the scoring from Dani Carvajal’s knock down in the 17th minute but the away side drew level from the spot seven minutes later following a foul from Casemiro.
Benzema then scored twice in 13 minutes during the second period to put the hosts in charge before Sergio Ramos added a fourth in the 66th minute after Marco Asensio was felled.
Here’s what we learned from the convincing win at the Santiago Bernabeu.
BENZEMA FLYING HIGH
We’re just three games into the new La Liga season and Benzema is already just one goal away from matching his tally over the course of the entire campaign last term. The Frenchman scored a paltry five goals in 32 league appearances last season, prompting speculation of his likely departure in the summer.
However, Benzema has been handed a new lease of life under Julen Lopetegui and looks a different player – one that’s leading the goal-scoring charts in the division. The swagger and self-belief he had as a young trailblazer leading the line at Lyon are starting to resurface.
Away from the departed Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow, Benzema is starting to shine, crucially, in more goalscoring positions. His swelling confidence was evident in the manner of his second goal against Leganes.
Having received the ball in a tight space on the edge of the box, surrounded by three defenders, the Frenchman’s elegant turn evaded them before exchanging a swift one-two with Luka Modric and drilling his finish low into the far corner. Perfection.
BALE ON A ROLL
Another player who was expected to flourish in Ronaldo’s absence is Bale and while he hasn’t steamrolled an opposition so far this season, like other players around him, he’s certainly shining that little bit brighter in the Portuguese’s absence.
The Welshman has clearly been instructed to have a presence inside the box and drift into central areas despite starting on the right flank and it’s paying dividends. He was on hand to sweep in Carvajal’s header back towards the penalty spot to break the deadlock.
The goal means Bale has now scored in seven consecutive La Liga games, going back to the end of last season.
RAMOS LOVING LEADING ROLE
Lopetegui’s arrival in the summer has not just been great for the midfield players at the Bernabeu. The former Spain coach has entrusted Ramos with building from the back and the defender is relishing the responsibility.
The Spanish international boasts several qualities of a top level modern centre-back. Among them are his mobility, passing and eye for goal. His distribution has been key in Lopetegui’s system, making more passes than anyone else (113) against Leganes, even outdoing Toni Kroos (107) with an identical success rate.
His diagonal ball forward for Carvajal was well picked out and led to the first goal. He’s proving to be a competent penalty-taker as well – benefiting from Ronaldo’s move away – and is clearly a chief target from set-pieces. He already has three goals to his name and you wouldn’t put a double-figure tally past him this season.