Real Madrid 2-2 Club Brugge: Talking points include Gareth Bale and Vinicius Junior as hosts scrape draw

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Real Madrid celebrate their equaliser

Real Madrid recovered from a disastrous first half to scrape a point against Club Brugge at Santiago Bernabeu after initially going 2-0 down in their Champions League Group A-encounter.

Emmanuel Dennis was the beneficiary of some dire Madrid defending, opening the scoring in the ninth minute with an unconventional finish.

The Nigerian doubled the Belgian’s lead when he robbed Luka Modric of possession and raced through to score his second six minutes before half time.

Sergio Ramos narrowly escaped an offside call to drag his side back into the contest 10 minutes after the break with a fine header.

The hosts poured forward in search of another, but were forced to wait until the 85th minute for an equaliser when Casemiro headed home a Toni Kroos free-kick after Brugge skipper Ruud Vormer was dismissed for a second yellow in committing the foul.

However, the visitors clung on for a memorable point, leaving Real facing a devilish trip to Turkish giants Galatasaray without a win from their opening two games.

Here are the main talking points from the Bernabeu.

AN OFFENSIVE DEFENCE

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Real Madrid’s defence hasn’t looked this bad since, well, their last Champions League game.

Los Blancos were torn apart by Paris Saint-Germain but in the aftermath of that humiliating defeat, Zinedine Zidane retreated into a conservative shell. To his credit, it worked as Real kept a clean sheet in the three games since that wretched display in Paris, a run which included visits to Sevilla and Atletico Madrid.

But the chains were off on Tuesday after sacrificing their attacking intent. To begin with, Real actually looked good, zipping the ball around with sharp one-touch passing in congested areas.

Indeed, there was a swagger about their play but it quickly disintegrated into misplaced arrogance.

For a team so short of legs in midfield, a farcically high defensive line spelled danger, especially against the speed of Dennis and the vibrant Percy Tau.

Those two mercilessly skewered the 13-time European champions, Tau breaking a lethargic offside trap to square for Dennis who comically muddled a close-range finish, diverting a right-footed shot onto his left and trickling the ball past Thibaut Courtois.

Madrid indulged further hubris and paid for it once more as Modric maddeningly pivoted straight into a Dennis on the halfway line, allowing the striker to pull clear. He almost tripped over his own feet yet somehow used the stumble to leverage the ball over a seated Courtois.

As they committed men forward after the break, Real left gaping holes at the back and could have been punished further were it not for half-time substitute goalkeeper Alphonse Areola saving well to deny Dennis a hat-trick.

Finding a balance between the extremes of enterprise and conservatism is Zidane’s top task.

VINICIUS THE DIFFERENCE

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Is there a player more despised by their own ‘support’ than Lucas Vazquez? The 28-year-old’s name on the team-sheet is always greeted by a collective meltdown, but his unrefined performance justified the derision.

Between ludicrously bad flip-flap attempts and blind dribbles, Vazquez ended promising moves with imprecise passes.

When he was withdrawn for Vinicius Junior in the 67th minute, Real were far more effective with the Brazilian in his place.

For large parts of the game, on one side there was Eden Hazard so disconnected from his team-mates and on the other, Vazquez displaying a disconnection of brain and feet.

But Vinicius carved open the quickly-fatiguing visitors, entering the game in a blizzard of feints, twists and turns.

With both Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez left out of the squad, it was the teenager who proved the difference.

His trickery drew a rash foul from an already-booked Vormer as Brugge were left with 10 men and then from the resulting free-kick, no lead, as Casemiro planted his header into the far corner.

WHERE WAS BALE?

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It seems trivial to discuss players not involved after such a dramatic game, but the smell of Bale pervaded the Bernabeu air and intensified as the game wore on.

The Welshman, having been such a strong performer for Zidane so far this season with three goals in his last five games, was fit but rested.

Curiously, Bale was left out of the side completely and while it was perhaps understandable he didn’t make the starting XI given his injury history, discarding him from the squad was a bizarre decision.

Bale has been one of the few players to provide genuine penetration out wide and combined with his immense work-rate is now a key member of the team.

Zidane paid for his negligence and it’s a mistake he’ll do well to avoid.

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