Real Madrid interim boss Santiago Solari insisted the Champions League hammering of Viktoria Plzen was about the players rather than him.
Real have won all three matches since Solari took over from Julen Lopetegui, leading to speculation that his stay in the hotseat may not be temporary after all.
After a sticky opening 15 minutes in which Nacho hit his own bar, Real were rampant in a 5-0 victory. They were four up at half-time thanks to a brace from Karim Benzema and one each from Casemiro and Gareth Bale, with Toni Kroos adding a delightful chip in the second half.
Solari said on uefa.com: “It’s impossible to win 5-0 away in the Champions League and not play a great game. I’m very happy but this was all about the players – we have some brilliant players here who have no limits.
“The players deserve this and focus now switches to the next match. We came into the game fully focused and it showed. We have the players here to score lots of goals and that’s what we did.”
Some of the old Real swagger was evident again, albeit against opponents who allowed the defending champions far too much space in the box and were horribly exposed from set-pieces.
That was most evident for Casemiro’s header, and the midfielder said: “It was an important night for us. We’ve scored five times and this result will give us confidence.
“On other days we created chances like tonight but didn’t take them. Real Madrid is the most demanding club in the world and you always have to win here.”
It was a landmark night for Benzema, whose first goal was his 200th for the club.
The Frenchman has not always been appreciated by Real’s fans, and he said: “I play football to make history. Sometimes people don’t really understand what I do on the pitch. I’m there to help my team-mates as well as score goals. For me the important thing always is winning.”
Plzen were unfortunate to lose at the Bernabeu two weeks ago but found themselves heavily beaten for the second time in the Champions League this season following their 5-0 defeat by Roma.
Defender Lukas Hejda said: “Real did not underestimate us from the very first moment and they were a bit more aggressive than in Madrid. We conceded four goals in the first half and the match was over.
“Real proved their quality. We conceded three goals after set-pieces, which were a bit cheap. But we still wanted to play forwards, did not want to only defend.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Real Madrid turned on the style in the Czech Republic as they put five past hapless Viktoria Plzen.
The Czech champions had the visitors on the back-foot for the first 15 minutes before Karim Benzema scored against the run of play and opened the floodgates.
Here are our player ratings for the game:
Real Madrid (4-2-3-1)
Thibaut Courtois 7: Was barely tested during the game. Responded well whenever he was called upon.
Sergio Reguilon 7: Promising performance from the youngster, linked up well with Bale and fulfilled his defensive duties too.
Sergio Ramos 6: Was dominated for the first quarter hour but recovered well, though planted Milan Havel with nasty elbow. Substituted early on in the second half.
Nacho 6: Looked out of sorts at first and almost scored an own goal. Looked more confident and composed after Madrid got the lead.
Alvaro Odriozola 6: An improvement from his performance against Real Valladolid. Still needs to work on his positioning.
Casemiro 7: Good performance at the heart of midfield, controlled the flow of the game well and scored.
Toni Kroos 8: One of his best performance from recent times. An assist and a beautiful goal to mark it.
Lucas Vazquez 5: Needs to do better if he has to cement his position in the line-up. Went anonymous more often than not.
Dani Ceballos 6: Quiet game from the youngster, went missing at times, but nothing to worry about.
Gareth Bale 8: Looked threatening at times, scored a goal and provided one more. Great performance overall.
Karim Benzema 9: Near-perfect performance gets a near-perfect score. Two goals and an assist to his name.
Vinicius Jr 7: Threatening on the left, got an assist to his name but was caught offside too often.
Isco 6: Took a central role after he came on in the second half. Failed to produce anything significant.
Javi Sanchez 7: Wasn’t tested until the last 10 minutes or so, but not with much intent.
Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale led the way for Real Madrid as they battered Viktoria Plzen 5-0 in the Champions League.
Top versus bottom met in Group G and a predictably one-sided contest followed – unlike the nervy 2-1 reverse win put in by Los Blancos as Julen Lopetegui’s reign unraveled.
Here is the report card from Doosan Arena.
Madrid travelled east with criticism ringing in their ears from the weekend’s unsightly – and fortunate – triumph against Real Valladolid.
They wasted little time in providing a retort. Karim Benzema artfully danced clear for the opener, prior to a pair of headers from Brazil anchorman Casemiro and the aforementioned French striker, plus maligned Wales forward Gareth Bale’s volley.
The best was saved for the second half. Substitute Vinicius Junior charged clear and played in Germany metronome Toni Kroos, who delicately lobbed a first-time effort.
A wild, early elbow from skipper Sergio Ramos was the only negative.
Before Wednesday night’s walkover, Benzema and Bale had contributed just nine goals to the Madrid cause in 2018/19.
A paltry return for a team that has lost the crushing weight of numbers produced by now-Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Little wonder that then-misfiring Bale exited Santiago Bernabeu during the weekend’s difficult 2-0 win against Valladolid to a cascade of boos.
The pair were back to their predatory best against Plzen. Benzema skipped through for a delightful opener – a landmark 200th goal for Madrid – and headed in the third, with Bale also profited aerially to make it 4-0.
If caretaker Santiago Solari’s only lasting imprint is a revitalisation of this duo, he’ll have done his job.
A trail of bloodied and broken opponents seem to follow Ramos.
The veteran centre-back was highly fortunate to escape a 25th red card for Madrid when a wild – and unnecessary – elbow made brutal contact with Milan Havel’s nose in the 13th minute. The midfielder instantly crumpled to his knees as claret poured out and the perpetrator feigned typical innocence.
Severe punishment should have followed. It, undoubtedly, would have done if VAR (video-assistant referee) was utilised in the 2018/19 competition.
Ramos, consequentially, got away with the ‘chicken wing’ that damaged Mohamed Salah’s shoulder and the wild elbow that dazed Loris Karius in last term’s Champions League final versus Liverpool.
This pattern of violent behaviour was established more than a decade ago. Why referees are now letting him off is perplexing and unacceptable.
TACTICAL TURNING POINT
Solari’s pedigree as a winger of some repute has been highly visible during his three-game, temporary, Madrid reign.
More than 40 crosses were pumped in during the fortunate victory against Valladolid upon his La Liga bow. Criticism for this approach was just as plentiful.
The ex-Argentina international could easily have folded in the face of such opprobrium. Yet, when a star-studded midfield still has the propensity to play as if wading through treacle, a reductive approach is required.
Against Plzen, Casemiro scored direct from a corner, plus Bale and Benzema struck a header and volley apiece.
It’s rarely pretty. But it is effective.
Viktoria Plzen C
With Lopetegui out of the picture, this was always going to be a more-exacting test for the Czech top-flight’s current second-placed side.
To concede a pair of headers will provide immense frustration for head coach Pavel Vrba.
Real Madrid A-
Three games down and three wins chalked up.
Under Lopetegui, Madrid went 481 minutes without a goal.
Solari has allied pragmatism with moments of genius. It has been a useful approach to date.