Deportivo Alavés 1-4 Real Madrid (Benzema x2,Nacho & Vinícius Júnior). Here is the immediate reaction to the first game of the season. Up soon: player ratings, press conference highlights and the post game podcast.
The new season is upon us, and Real Madrid look as unprepared as ever after leaving players such as Dani Ceballos and Martin Ødegaard out of the registration list for the league. Although this could quickly change, rumours about the latter player have been flying around the internet linking him with a move back to Arsenal. This exclusion has only further encouraged these rumours and means that neither player would be available for the season opener. One player who did manage to return to the line-up was Gareth Bale, with a fresh new number 18 jersey. He was joined by debutant David Alaba in a strong yet predictable line-up. Three Castilla players made the bench for the first competitive game, with Toni Fuidias looking to have secured that vacant third goalkeeper spot in the squad.
The lack of recruitment over the summer coupled with dubious departures has created a bleak tone by the fans regarding the upcoming season. Many feel like this is a squad unable to compete for any serious silverware, however the team looked sharp in possession during the first half - despite the loss of key leaders within the team in recent times. Alaba really stepped up and looked comfortable in his new surroundings, and the team appeared well prepared for competitive football after a unique pre-season schedule due to COVID-19. They created a number of chances as well, albeit from distance. Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Luka Modrić all came close from the edge of the box after some positive sequences. Alavés also looked good on the ball and created fewer yet closer chances as Joselu poked the ball wide. The half finished goalless.
Alaba reminding me of Kroos's first game for the club. Seamless, like he's been here for 5 years.— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) August 14, 2021
Real Madrid improved upon their dominance early on in the second half by taking the lead through Karim Benzema. The assist by Eden Hazard using his back leg to flick the ball up for the French striker. It quickly became two after a loose Luka Modrić ball was met really well by the stretching Nacho Fernández who acrobatically beat the keeper. Benzema was soon in action again after Fede Valverde carved his way through Alavés before finding Karim who after a few bobbles managed to sneak the ball into the net for three. Before I could finish applauding, the hosts were handed a lifeline. Éder Militão played a poor back pass, forcing Thibaut Courtois to chop down the oncoming John Guidetti. The seemingly never ending walking curse which is Joselu then stepped up to take a very strong penalty and continue his impressive scoring run against his former club. Brazilian boys Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo Goes were brought on to replace Hazard and Bale, but this did not prevent Alavés trying to chase that dream comeback as they piled on the pressure. Isco, Marco Asensio and Luka Jović were introduced to break up the play. Even into added time Madrid were not done, with Alaba putting such a good ball into the box that Vinícius Júnior simply had to connect to score. Connect he did, with the game finishing seconds later to complete the 4-1 score line - meaning the visitors will be taking all three points back to the capital on the opening day.
17 - Only Lionel Messi (23) has scored more goals in LaLiga in 2021 than Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema (17). Streak. pic.twitter.com/unFBSx4KjN— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 14, 2021
It is difficult to draw conclusions based on this one game alone, and nothing can be predicted for the coming games - but this result and performance could change the mindset of a lot of nervous fans, with the team coming out and playing an assured, sharp and confident game to pick up their first win of the season. With the transfer window yet to conclude, things could take yet another twist in either direction. Hazard and Bale were two of the biggest positives from the game, with both of them putting in their best performances in a Real Madrid shirt in some time. What did you think about the win? Did it soothe any nerves, or were you confident in Carlo and his men all along?