9 things we saw..
- After going scoreless to start the first two La Liga games, Ronaldo scored a hat-trick within 20 minutes. Yes, you already knew that, but you might not have known this: It was the fastest hat-trick in La Liga since 1960. Impressive. In truth, there wasn't any legitimate concerns over Ronaldo's 'drought'. It would have been one thing if Rafa's new formation was forcing Ronaldo to be disconnected with the flow of the offense, but that wasn't the case. Ronaldo was always active and involved in the chances created during the first two matches. The finishing would come eventually.
- After another shaky start from Marcelo, it looked like he was en route to his third consecutive poor game. But Marcelo grew, and his passing in tight spaces out of the back was really notable today. Some nice touches from the Brazilian overall, but it doesn't change the fact that he needs to improve his defensive liabilities when the big games roll around.
- Gareth Bale is looking sharp this season. Another great game from the Welshman from a position that many felt he couldn't prosper in. From the middle, Bale latched onto a through ball and drew a penalty. After drifting left, his killer cross was met by Ronaldo. On another goal, he started a counter attack from the center with a precise through-ball to Ronaldo who crossed it into Benzema. Of course, his second assist of the night came after he made a run from the middle to the right flank where he received a pass and squared it to Ronaldo. All in all, the switch to the middle has made Bale heavily operative in a conducive way. He was involved in the build-up to five of the goals tonight.
- BBC update: 6 goals and 4 assists today.
- A solid game from Casemiro. He did make one rash challenge, but that's what a destroyer does. The luxury of having a player like Casemiro was nonexistent last season which led to the exhaustion of Toni Kroos. Having someone like Casemiro takes the load off the central midfielder, and allows much needed rest to other players.
- Rafa Benitez deserves credit. A good game from Rafa today: His subs were good, his rotation policy seems fruitful, and his shuffling of the front three has revamped BBC completely. As bozz pointed out to me on Twitter, Rafa needs to deliver this kind of play in big games as well, but it's certainly a promising system which I assume will only continually improve. My only minor criticism tonight is his decision to play Lucas Vasquez over Jese, who needs to play every chance he gets to develop his confidence.
- Carvajal, apart from being undressed by Moreno in the first half, had an excellent game.
- Everytime I see those grey kits I feel the need to make a comment about them. Today I found they clashed terribly with Espanyol's blanquiazules. Before, it was that they don't hold perspiration well. The latter point remains true.
- How likable is Keylor Navas? That save in the second half was Iker-esque.