Real Madrid got off to a winning start in La Liga on Sunday night by comfortably beating neighbours Getafe 2-0 at home with an inspiring performance from Gareth Bale in the European champions’ first league game in the post Cristiano Ronaldo era. Bale crashed a diving header against the crossbar early on, then helped to set up Dani Carvajal’s looping header which broke the deadlock in the 20th minute, wrapping up the points with a powerful first-time finish early in the second half.
The Wales forward was given a standing ovation by the home supporters in his first competitive game back at the Santiago Bernabeu since scoring twice in the 3-1 win over Liverpool in the Champions League final.
Lopetegui hailed the performance of Bale. “I was pleased with the team in general and Gareth put in a great performance,” said Lopetegui, who also saw Bale head against the crossbar early on. “Bale offers us solutions. He played well, like many of his teammates.”
With Ronaldo having left for Juventus, and with no big signings made to replace the Portuguese superstar, Bale played in a front three along with Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio. Lopetegui added: “In the structure that we are trying to create, there are players with different characteristics and Gareth has his own. He gives us something different and we need to take advantage of that. We are delighted with how it’s going.”
The result lifts the pressure on new coach Julen Lopetegui after Wednesday’s painful 4-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup and sees Real join champions Barcelona on three points after one game, although Sevilla lead the standings on goal difference after their 4-1 win at Rayo Vallecano.
Lopetegui again chose Costa Rica international Keylor Navas in goal ahead of 30mn euro ($34mn) signing Thibaut Courtois and fielded Spanish midfielder Dani Ceballos over Luka Modric, who was also left out of the starting line-up in the Super Cup game but came on in the second half. Real monopolised the ball with a staggering 78% of possession and barely conceded a chance to Getafe, who picked up seven yellow cards as they desperately tried to halt Real’s frequent attacks. Real’s first clear chance came when Marcelo picked out Bale with a searching cross and the Wales forward dived to meet it but could only head against the bar, missing the chance to score his side’s opening goal of the season for a fourth year in a row.
That honour fell to Spain defender Carvajal, who stayed with his feet on the ground to head the loose ball into the top corner after Getafe goalkeeper David Soria had flapped at Bale’s cross.
Spanish winger Asensio joined Bale in hitting the woodwork and was also the catalyst for Real’s second goal, chasing down Getafe defender Djene Dakonam to win back the ball and cross for Bale to hammer it in off the post.
“It was very important to make a strong start with good sensations and we played very well; we have to go little by little but this is the right way to start the league season,” Asensio told reporters. “Cristiano has left but we have a good team. We are working hard, you saw that reflected on the pitch today and this is the way to continue. We have to move on after the Super Cup defeat and turn a page. Today was the start of a new competition which we are very excited about. We put in a great performance.”
Sunday’s match against a modest Getafe side allowed Lopetegui to get off to the perfect start in La Liga. “We still have a lot of room for improvement, like all teams at this time of year, but we showed intensity, good team spirit and we managed to win and score goals against a team who are well organised defensively,” said Lopetegui. Real’s next outing is away at Girona next Sunday evening.
Spanish La Liga results on Sunday
Eibar 1 (Escalante 69) SD Huesca 2 (Gallar 5, 40); Rayo Vallecano 1 (Embarba Bl?zquez 85-pen) Sevilla 4 (Vazquez 15, Silva 31, 45+1, 79); Real Madrid 2 (Carvajal 20, Bale 51) Getafe 0
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