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Immediate Reaction: Celta Vigo 1 - 3 Real Madrid

Bale returns, Modric sees red, Kroos scores a thunderbolt, and Lucas Vazquez caps off a magical sequence

RC Celta de Vigo v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Celta Vigo lose to Real Madrid 1 - 3 (Losada; Benzema, Kroos, Vazquez). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.

Zidane’s starting line-up, in many ways, gave Real Madrid fans some harsh flashbacks. They had gone through an entire summer hoping for something new — something refreshing and different. Something infused with new blood. Today’s lineup in Balaidos consisted of no new faces. But part of that had to do with the obvious injury to Eden Hazard, and there was some hope that although the team wasn’t entirely new, seeing a rejuvenated Bale might be like a new signing in itself. And you could extend that to James Rodriguez, who was on the bench today but didn’t make an appearance.

Bale, the most obvious taking point from the starting line-up, deserves some extra attention here. The Welshman, who went through the motions last seasons on so many occassions where the team needed him in the post-Ronaldo era, brought a certain energy with him to Vigo. He started off the game with two really nice long passes. He tracked defensively to help Odriozola (a weak point defensively which we’ll get to), sprinted high up the pitch to provide outlets over Celta’s defensive line, and often drifted from the flanks without the ball to provide a target in the box.

And he only drifted into the box to provide an aerial threat a handful of times, as Real Madrid deviated from their crossing routine to build through counter attacks. The team crossed just 11 times tonight — well below the team’s average over the past few seasons.

The opening goal came through a nice first touch and pass from Marcelo to Bale, who played it square to Benzema after a few nice twists and turns:

Real Madrid kept Celta at bay defensively for most of the first half, but didn’t generate much offense outside of a handful of transition attacks through Bale. Celta did grow into the game, though, and started finding space behind Marcelo and Odriozola. They nearly took the lead just before half-time after Odriozola’s lapse saw him dribble into a dangerous area and get dispossessed. VAR ruled this out for offside:

The second half saw Real Madrid’s defensive vulnerabilities show a bit more. The half spaces between the full-backs and central defenders were open, and Celta were able to find space with splitting vertical passes and nice runs through Real’s backline. Courtois came up big on a couple of occassions to prevent the equalizer. Things looked worrying when, amid Celta’s momentum, Luka Modric was sent off for stepping on Denis Suarez’s heel:

After Modric’s red card, Celta, perhaps surprisingly, were subdued. As Bale faded out of the game, Vinicius became the more prominent ball-carrier in transition — seeing plenty of the ball but lacking any sort of efficiency with his dribbling. Real Madrid were able to keep possession despite going down to 10 men, and were given a huge psychological boost with a Toni Kroos absolute golazo:

Isco and Lucas Vazquez came on in the second half for Vinicius and Bale, and both were involved in Real Madrid’s third goal, which can only be described as a magical sequence started by a Casemiro interception:

Celta pull back a consolation goal late through a counter-attack as I publish this. We’ll break this down more in the coming hours.

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