Real Madrid got their 2019-20 La Liga campaign off to a flying start with a convincing 3-1 win at Celta Vigo, despite a harsh red card for Luka Modric. Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Lucas Vazquez scored the goals as Los Blancos did what rivals Barcelona could not and grabbed all three points to open the season.
By far the biggest positive for Zinedine Zidane‘s side was renewed performance levels from many big names who had underperformed badly both last year and in preseason. Gareth Bale starting the game, then giving an excellent showing, was not expected earlier this summer when the Welshman was being pushed towards the exit door. Just as welcome was a return to form for Toni Kroos — who marked opening day with an absolute screamer, having not scored at all in La Liga last season.
Very few negatives really, but backup right-back Alvaro Odriozola had a really difficult evening filling in for the suspended Dani Carvajal, and the defence was opened up a few times early in the second half. Friday’s injury to Eden Hazard meant none of the players signed for a combined €300 million this summer started for Madrid.
Manager rating out of 10
8 — After trying 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 in preseason, Zidane went back to basics with a tried and trusted 4-3-3, which suits his best players. After a turbulent summer, including disagreements over transfers with president Florentino Perez, the Frenchman looks keen to move forward with the squad he has. Most obviously, starting Bale showed again that the former Galactico does not care about public perception, and the call was vindicated completely by the Welshman.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 8 — Zidane’s confirmed No. 1 this season was untroubled in the first half, then made excellent stops from Iago Aspas and Nestor Araujo when Celta were pressing at 1-0 down. Could do nothing about the late consolation from Celta debutant Iker Losada.
DF Alvaro Odriozola, 5 — Struggled badly against the super skillful Denis Suarez, and was saved by VAR when his double mistake seemed to have gifted Celta an equaliser.
DF Raphael Varane, 7 — Generally comfortable at the back, and made an excellent intervention on the stretch to just about divert to safety a dangerous Aspas cross in the first half.
DF Sergio Ramos, 6 — Caught out of position a couple of times, without being punished, as Spain international teammate Aspas caused Madrid plenty of bother for a period after half-time.
DF Marcelo, 7 — Looked fitter than last season and caused danger raiding forward, with his neat flick in the build-up to Madrid’s third goal standing out. Was still attacking in added time, with Celta then exposing the space on the break, but at this point the 31-year-old is not going to change.
MF Luka Modric, 7 — Looked fresher than at any time last season, And almost made it 2-0 with low drive just before half-time. Later was shown a straight red for just catching Suarez’s ankle with his studs, after VAR asked referee Xavier Estrada Fernandez to have another look.
MF Casemiro, 7 — His strong challenge started the move for Madrid’s opener, and thereafter was disciplined and aware, never more than when blocking a shot at point-blank range when the score was at 1-0.
MF Toni Kroos, 8 — Had been going about his business quietly and competently, then seized the moment after Modric sending off to swerve an unstoppable 30-yarder into the top corner to maintain Madrid’s control of the game.
FW Gareth Bale, 8 — Challenged by Zidane yesterday to prove he deserved a starting spot, Bale almost immediately produced his best moment in a Madrid shirt for months with a brilliant run and cross for Benzema’s opener. Looked sharp and hungry until he ran out of gas in the second half, and was denied a deserved goal by an excellent Ruben Blanco save.
FW Karim Benzema, 7 — Showed his striker’s instinct to get to near post and poke home Bale’s cross. His movement and awareness regularly caused Celta’s defence problems, and he added a cherry on top of his performance with a balletic assist for Lucas Vazquez’s goal late on.
FW Vinicius Junior, 5 — Not the teenager’s best game with his standout moments trying to claim the opening goal himself after also being on the spot, and picking up a yellow when bamboozled by Celta’s Suarez on the break.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 7 — The disciplined winger remains Zidane’s usual first choice from the bench, and showed composure to finish clinically and make it 3-0 late on.
MF Isco, 7 — Replaced Bale with 15 minutes remaining and moved the ball patiently and efficiently as Zidane’s team ran down the clock.
FW Luka Jovic, N/R — The €60m centre-forward got his first official minutes in a Madrid shirt with the game already over at 3-0.