The Santiago Bernabeu rose to its feet to welcome back club legend Zinedine Zidane for his second spell as manager on Saturday.
Having been so blatantly shunned under the previous regime, it was fitting that Isco made the breakthrough in the 62nd minute with Benzema once again playing provider under Zidane.
Marcelo then assisted Bale for the second goal 13 minutes from time to seal all three points
Here’s how Zidane fared in his first match back in charge of Real.
Goals – 2
Shots – 22
Possession – 53%
Key passes – 19
Dribbles – 11
Tackles – 16
Old favourites make impact
Zidane’s team selection for his first game back at the helm spoke volumes. Outcasts Isco, Navas, Asensio and Marcelo were reinstated in the first XI as was the out-of-favour Bale. The Welshman hit the crossbar with a scissor kick in the first half and while he could’ve done better on a couple of other occasions, his threat continued to grow after the break and he sealed the win with Madrid’s second. Meanwhile, Navas made an eye-catching save in the 16th minute.
Asensio on the other hand went on some great runs and threatened the goal. Marcelo was a force in attack but – predictably – a liability at the back. Isco just looked like a player starved of minutes on the pitch. The Spaniard did bag the crucial opener though while Marcelo picked up the assist for Bale’s goal.
Celta Vigo’s defence is among the worst in the Spanish top flight but Madrid did struggle to carve out clear-cut opportunities in the first half. That’s largely down to some labourious play in possession. It’s a strange accusation against a team that boasts the creativity of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Isco in midfield but such is the reality at the Bernabeu.
Zidane no doubt pointed out this shortcoming at half-time and they did step things up a notch in the second period but there remains plenty of scope for improvement in that department.
TACTICAL TALKING POINT
Granted, it wasn’t as fluid as Zidane would’ve liked but it will take time to rediscover their swagger in the final third. What was evident though was the return of a more flexible attacking unit with Benzema reprising his role as a roaming number nine.
The Frenchman consistently dropped deep or pulled wide to get involved in the build-up play and it was no surprise when he set up Isco for the opener with a ball across the six-yard box from the left side.
A quick glance at the heat maps of Benzema, Isco, Asensio and Bale would give little indication of the positions each of them actually lined up in. Hardly a complex strategy but the message is clear – play with freedom and create space for each other.
Sometimes the result is far more important than the performance and this was one of those times. Zidane’s team selection will be debated but overall, it paid off. There were signs of his attempts to get this Los Blancos side purring again but it will take time until they can up their game. Not great, but good enough for now.
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