Real Madrid 1-0 Union Berlin (Bellingham). Bellingham steals it late on. Here is my reaction to the game. Coming up: Player ratings, post game quotes and a Champions League podcast.
After securing a difficult win just days prior against a strong (perhaps stronger) Real Sociedad side, Real Madrid were back in action as the Champions League commenced for the season. Top performer Dani Carvajal would miss this one due to an injury picked up in training, so Lucas Vázquez would start instead at right-back. Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modrić came into the side at the expense of Toni Kroos and Fede Valverde. Joselu Mato maintained his starting spot after bagging the winner last time out. Fran García was benched for Nacho Fernández, and joining him included the likes of Ferland Mendy and Dani Ceballos. Nacho captained the team for the opening European game.
Joselu Mato got things going for Real Madrid after his headed attempt was saved really well by the Berlin keeper within minutes of the opening whistle. He would very quickly put a similar effort wide as the home side set the tone. If you thought this game would spell chances galore after that first five minutes however, you would be very wrong. The first half was not played at a fast pace, and other than a couple of glancing chances from Joselu and Rodrygo Goes - but first gear is all Madrid would show in the first 45. 0-0 at the break.
Union Berlin have set up their defense to focus on Bellingham. Playing very narrow, plugging all of the central channels. They know Real Madrid don't have much width in this scheme. Wonder for that reason we'll see Fran Garcia soon. There is no space centrally. Need to decongest.— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) September 20, 2023
Things would change after a half time team talk from Carlo Ancelotti, and the home side actually came out looking to press and attack Union Berlin. This tactic was rewarded with plenty of chances, as Rodrygo Goes hit the post from close range. Robin Gosens came close in what was the visitors first real chance of the game, but that would be quickly swept aside as Eduardo Camavinga shot from distance and only just missed the target. Joselu would gain another chance, this time with the ball at his feet as his shot was aimed for too close to the keeper. He would then hit the post after winning yet another aerial duel to send the ball towards the goal. The keeper seemed to get a fingertip save in on that one. Luka Modrić then tried his luck, but the ball was tipped over the bar to keep things level. Joselu continued to be Madrid’s main man with the chances, as a brilliant volleyed effort flew wide. Rodrygo then found himself right in-front of goal after a world class touch, but the eventual strike was far from that. Just as it looked like it was destined for 0-0, Fede Valverde got a long strike in that caused chaos inside the area - and none other than Jude Bellingham tapped the ball home to give Real Madrid the win. The hero once more. Bring on the derby this weekend.