Isco and Bale give Zinedine Zidane the perfect start
Zinedine Zidane made the best possible start to his second spell as Real Madrid manager with a comfortable 2-0 win over Celta Vigo at the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga.
If you showed someone the first half of this game and then the second half, they would struggle to believe that they belonged to the same match as they were so different. In the first half, Celta showed adventure, ambition and bravery against a decent Real Madrid performance. However, after the interval, Fran Escriba's side went on the defensive and were unable to cope with Real's penetrating attacking play.
The afternoon started badly for the away side when Junca overstretched while looking to control a pass from a teammate. He went down putting his hands to his groin area and his game concluded prematurely. Ex-Southampton player, Wesley Hoedt replaced him and he did a very good job in his place.
It only took seven minutes for the first chance of the game and it fell to the hosts. Bale delivered a cross field pass to Marcelo on the far side, the Brazilian put in a nice cross, but Ruben Blanco in the Celta goal got vital fingertips to it to change the flight of the ball and prevent Karim Benzema from opening the scoring. Three minutes later, it was Celta Vigo who had a pop. Maxi Gomez tried to curl his shot around Marcelo, but he could not get any curl on the ball and it went wide.
Celta Vigo had their best chance of the entire game on the quarter of an hour mark, Hoedt sent in a wonderful cross, Ramos got a head to it, but it still found its intended target, Maxi Gomez. The Uruguayan headed powerfully, but Navas pulled off a stunning dive to tip it over. Celta continued to show signs of danger and Lobotka made a beautiful run of over 30 yards, but once the ball went to Kevin, Odriozola and Bale ended the move.
Real Madrid were also attacking, but Hoedt and Blanco were firm in defence. Kroos had Real's solitary chance until the half an hour mark when the home side came the closest to scoring. Benzema tried an overhead kick from Asensio's cross, it looked a high boot from the Frenchman, but the referee played on and then Bale booted the bouncing ball onto the crossbar.
It was still a very even and enjoyable first half and Varane was forced to cut out Boufal's low shot after good build-up play between Sisto and Gomez. Ramos wanted to respond to that and almost did so in typical Ramos fashion heading a corner from Kroos, but it was slightly off target.
However, Real Madrid stepped it up in the final five or 10 minutes of the half and the Celta defence were already showing signs of difficulty before the break. Although there were no major chances, the defence was called into action on various occasions. Asensio wanted a penalty for a pull back on the edge of the box. It looked to have just been outside the area and Bale may have been offside.
Bale was also perhaps lucky to stay on the field right on half-time. He caught Kevin in the face and was booked. On closer inspection, it was more elbow than arm. Although it did not seem intentional, if he had seen red, he could not have had any complaints. it was genuinely borderline.
The second half was 45 minutes of Real dominance. They pressed with various corners and balls in and in the 55th minute, thought they had taken the lead through Modric. A corner was half-cleared and Modric's strike was hit into the ground and beat Blanco. However, after a VAR review, the goal was disallowed because Varane was in an offside position and was clearly impacting on play.
However, it was only four minutes later when Real Madrid finally took the lead. Asensio made most of the goal with a darting run, he passed to Benzema who was just level and then he squared for Isco to tap in. Real Madrid finally got the goal they wanted and they continue to pepper the Celta goal even after they had gone in front. Bale and Marcelo called Blanco into action on separate occasions.
In the 77th minute, Bale sealed the three points with a shot from just behind the penalty spot which found the net after hitting the post. Marcelo did the work down this near side and passed the ball to the Welshman to double their lead. There was still time for Asensio and Kroos to try and further icnrease Madrid's lead, but they declared at two. Celta were toothless going forward and never looked like rescuing anything from the game after falling behind.
Zinedine Zidane said pre-game that he wanted to end the season with 11 wins. He can now tick the first box and will be hoping for similiar performances in the games to come. Celta Vigo on the other hand are really missing Iago Aspas and the change of manager has not been able to change their fortunes so far. A nail-biting relegation fight awaits for them and the difference in quality between the two teams was patent after the interval.