Real Madrid’s new No7 Mariano Diaz said he was not feeling the pressure of being granted the iconic jersey after bagging his first Champions League goal for the club on Wednesday.
Diaz returned to Real Madrid this August after a solid season with Ligue 1 outfit Lyon last year and was handed the jersey vacated by Cristiano Ronaldo following his transfer to Italian Serie A giants Juventus.
Diaz was on target in Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over AS Roma in their Champions League group stage opener at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.
“I have the seven but it’s just a number. I do not give it more importance. I have a lot of respect for Cristiano and all the players who have worn it,” Diaz told reporters after the win over Roma.
Having made an instant impact in the Champions League for Madrid, the 25-year-old is now targetting a maiden call-up to the Spain national team. The forward had previously represented the Dominican Republic in an international friendly against Haiti in 2013 but remains eligible to play for Spain which is the country of his birth.
“I would love a call from Luis Enrique (Spain coach), I hope I can be in the national team. I’m very happy with the goal I scored, thanks to Marcelo’s pass and my teammates. I was eager but not in a hurry (to play). I just wanted to work to get the opportunity from the coach,” he said.
Real Madrid head coach Julen Lopetegui was a happy man after Roma were beaten 3-0 in Wednesday’s Champions League opener.
Isco, Gareth Bale and Mariano struck to give Los Blancos a winning start in Group G.
The ex-Spain boss was quizzed about the performance after the match.
Watch his reaction below.
Gareth Bale scored as Real Madrid moved on from the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane with a 3-0 win over Roma on Wednesday to confidently launch their pursuit of a fourth successive Champions League title.
Isco curled in a terrific free-kick just before half-time at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Bale powering in a second and Mariano Diaz striking late as Real made a convincing start to their Group G campaign.
Olsen’s shot stopping – The Roma backline was routinely picked apart and while some supporters have bemoaned Alisson’s replacement Robin Olsen, the Swede was superb against Real. He made eight saves, three of them strong stops to deny Isco and Luka Modric. He could do very little about the two perfectly-placed goals.
Isco’s slick passing – When the Spaniard is in this type of form, he’s a delight to watch. A gorgeous first touch married to smooth passing hallmarked a deeply impressive performance. To top it off, he deliciously opened the scoring with a sublime free-kick. Who needs Cristiano Ronaldo?
Bale’s finishing – This might grate a few people considering the quality of his goal, yet up until the pin-point strike in the 58th minute, the Welshman’s finishing was well off the mark. He failed to hit the target with five of his six efforts and one in just the third minute, while struck sweetly, should have been buried.
Roma’s defending – Eusebio Di Francesco’s reputation for dire tactical decisions is burgeoning after another poor display from his side in Europe. They were battered by Liverpool last season after he employed a three-man defence and against Madrid, their suicidal high line coupled with little pressure on the ball was always going to spell trouble.
3rd min CHANCE: Already the gaps are appearing for Madrid and Toni Kroos deep in the quarterback slot, pings a ball into Bale who cuts past Aleksandar Kolarov from the right. The Welshman’s first touch is perfect but he smashes the ball wide.
8th min SAVE: Really slick from Real. Bale on the right passes inside for Modric, he swivels and cuts the ball through for Isco and Olsen does well to get down and save low with his right hand.
14th min CHANCE: First time Roma have had any penetration in Real’s final third as Cengiz Under capitlises on Dani Carvajal’s poor touch, but his dipping effort is well off target.
37th min CHANCE: Kroos slides the ball out to Marcelo, he crosses invitingly into the box on his right but it just slides past Karim Benzema. Olsen tips the ball out for a corner and from the resulting set-piece, Sergio Ramos plants a strong header which forces Olsen to tip over.
44th min GOAL 1-0: Lionel Messi on Tuesday, Isco on Wednesday. Take your pick as to which was the better effort. From a central position on the edge of the box, the Spaniard somehow finds enough pace and trajectory to plant a stunner into the left corner.
49th min MISS: Another super slick counter-attack from Madrid sees Modric backheel to Isco on the right, he slips a first-time ball to Benzema and his cut back should be finished by Bale but plants a horrible strike over the bar.
54th min SAVE: Isco turns provider for Modric who is given a ridiculous amount of space on the right side of the box. The Croat slides to fire an effort at goal but Olsen again does well to smother the ball.
57th min GOAL 2-0: Pure filth from Modric. He receives the ball deep in his own half, spots Bale’s scorching run on the left, the Welshman accelerates again and his boost of speed takes him bast Kostas Manolas and into the box. From an acute angle he finishes superbly across goal. A symbolic resemblance to Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal for Juventus at the weekend.
Bale just scored this goal. Modric pass in the build up is absolutely unreal. pic.twitter.com/tw0sDzUkfp— World Cup (@FlFAWC2018) September 19, 2018
79th min CHANCE: What a goal this would have been. Substitute Marco Asensio pirouettes past two men with his first-touch after receiving the ball from Isco in the box. He then incredibly applies a no-look finish and Olsen makes another brilliant stop to deny a world-class goal.
91st minute GOAL 3-0: No keeper will stop this from Mariano. Marcelo drives in field from a diagonal ball from the right, feeds the substitute who cuts inside on his first touch from the edge of the box and hammers home an unstoppable strike into the top corner.
TACTICAL TURNING POINT
Modric exploiting the high line – As previously mentioned, Roma’s high line was there to be exploited and few players can rip open gaps quite like the Croatian. Madrid spotted the deficiency early on and Toni Kroos efficiently picked out Modric at every opportunity with the little magician cutting Roma apart with diagonal balls into the space behind the full-backs. Isco and Bale prospered immensely from this tactic.
REAL MADRID: B+
Can’t ask for a lot more from a Champions League opener against a potentially tricky team. From back to front, Los Blancos boss Julen Lopetegui can be pleased with his side’s work. They have clearly bought into his philosophy, and the way they moved the ball with such zip and scheme while pressing with intent high up the pitch, the Spaniard can be happy with his players.
Offered very little in terms of attacking intent and when you barely threaten in the final third, you would at least expect some solidity at the back. However, the visitors were regularly opened up as Real ventured forward at will. The scoreline ultimately paints a picture of a closer fixture but the reality is much different.