Maligned Wales forward Gareth Bale was a shock starter when 10-man Real Madrid produced a gritty 3-1 win at Celta Vigo to open up their 2019/20 La Liga campaign in impressive fashion.
The object of head coach Zinedine Zidane’s ire benefited from Eden Hazard’s pre-match injury to surprisingly start at probable relegation candidates. His expert dribbling teed up striker Karim Benzema’s predatory 12th-minute opener.
The video-assistant referee would then rule out a Celta equaliser and send off visiting Croatia midfielder Luka Modric either side of half-time. But Toni Kroos’ rocket and substitute Lucas Vazquez’s well-worked one-on-one made the game safe, a day after champions Barcelona’s 1-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao.
A fantastic solo effort from 18-year-old Iker Losada in injury time, which found the bottom corner, then came far too late for Celta.
Here are the Madrid player ratings:
REAL MADRID (4-3-3)
Thibaut Courtois 6: Madrid’s undisputed No1 did not have a great deal to do, even with 10 men. Faced no on-target attempts in first half, though lively to snub out early second-half threat from Iago Aspas.
Alvaro Odriozola 4: Luckiest man at Balaidos. Constant uncertainty reached peak when he was robbed twice by Suarez in one move, only for VAR to deny Mendez’s tap-in. Also panicked and felled Aspas before Brais Mendez strike – would have been a penalty kick.
Raphael Varane 6: France centre-back added certainty to a backline that creaked in pre-season.
Sergio Ramos 6: Kept busy, at times, by Aspas and Mendez. Had more than enough to see Los Blancos through.
Marcelo 7: A probable beneficiary of summer buy Ferland Mendy’s injury. Busy, as ever, and bombed on during Vazquez’s goal.
Luka Modric 5: Pushed up high in 4-1-4-1 formation that Madrid utilised for long stretches. Led way in Zidane’s press, only for clumsy challenge on Denis Suarez to earn dismissal via VAR.
Casemiro 8: To the chagrin of the home faithful, Casemiro put in disciplined display. Produced critical turnover for Benzema’s opener and blocked Mendez’s goal-bound 50th-minute effort.
Toni Kroos 7: Produced knockout blow with Madrid on the ropes in aftermath of Modric’s red card. Power generated from 30 yards was astounding.
Gareth Bale 7: What a message from Madrid’s forgotten/maligned Wales forward. Double check-back gave Celta defender David Costas twisted blood, prior to expertly picking out Benzema with sublime low cross.
Karim Benzema 7: The burst of old has withered away. What remains is the mind of a predator. Inches away from second within moments of restart. Played critical part in silky third.
Vinicius Junior 6: The 19-year-old showed increasing maturity with diagonal runs and snide shirt pull on breaking Suarez.
Lucas Vazquez 7: Unlucky not to start. Lashed in the third soon after coming on.
Isco 7: Spain playmaker produced ballerina’s turn during eye-catching third.
Luka Jovic N/A: First summer signing to feature. Serbia forward had little time to shine.
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