Real Madrid kicked off their title defense with a 3-0 win against Roma at the Santiago Bernabeu. Here are three takeaways from the game.
Up until the last few minutes of the game, the 2-0 scoreline flattered Roma. The Italians had hardly had a sniff at goal and spent much of the match in their own third booting away waves of Madrid attacks. Mariano’s late golazo was a much fairer reflection of the night’s proceedings as Julen Lopetegui tasted victory on his European debut for Real Madrid.
Here are three things we learned from the match.
Mariano Diaz silences the critics
Mariano Diaz’ Real Madrid career up until now has been a frustrating one. After his form for the youth teams caught the eye of Zinedine Zidane in 2016, it seems that the Dominican has been greeted with nothing but doubt and question marks from the media. Even after his impressive spell in France, where he scored 18 Ligue 1 goals with Lyon, Mariano’s return was seen as an underwhelming one by the press, even more so after he was given the number seven shirt.
Since that summer move, Mariano has been left stewing on the bench, not making a single appearance until the 73rd minute of this game. You could see he was eager to impress finding himself on the edge of the area with his first touch of the game and he hadn’t disappointed come the end of the 90 minutes. Standing on the shoulder of his marker, Mariano cut inside and struck a wicked, curling ball from just outside the box. The strike moved with such spin and speed in the air, that Olsen barely had time to register it before the ball had nestled in the top corner of his goal.
It’s a statement from the 25-year-old and if he can continue to find the net like that, then Real Madrid’s historic number seven shirt is in good hands, despite what some journalists might think.
Real Madrid continue to beat bogey teams
There was a time when Real Madrid couldn’t buy a win against Italian teams. Ahead of their round of 16 tie against Roma two years ago, Madrid hadn’t beaten Italian opposition in eight previous seasons and hadn’t progressed past Italian sides in the knockout stages of Europe since 1988. Since then, Los Blancos have won the Champions League on Italian soil, have beaten Italian opposition in the final and snatched their snatched their first win in Turin since 1961-62, beating Juventus 3-0 away from home last season.
Along with the Italian hoodoo, Real Madrid have also overcome their German hex aswell. Bundesliga sides had enjoyed quite a good record against Madrid until recently, particularly Bayern Munich. The Bavarians have earned such a deadly reputation in European competition’s most played fixture, that they even have a nickname in the Spanish press, “la bestia negra” (the black beast). Since a 5-0 rout in 2013-14, Madrid are unbeaten against Bayern in four games and have won seven of their last 12 against German opponents.
There are a lot of factors into why Real Madrid have won the last three Champions League titles, but their ability to get wins off sides they historically struggle against is a major factor in their current success. That Lopetegui’s debut win in Europe continues this recent trend should be taken as a warning across Europe.
New era, same Real Madrid
It was a very different Real Madrid team that walked out on to the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night. In case you have been living under a rock since June, Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo have both left the club with the former being replaced by Julen Lopetegui. The former Spain manager has instilled quite a different philosophy at the club than his French predecessor and the departure of most dominant character in the club’s modern history has certainly changed the dynamic of the team even more.
At the same time, not that much has changed in the Spanish capital either. Lopetegui lined up against Roma with 10 of the 11 players that started in Kiev. Gareth Bale, the man who won the Champions League for Madrid last season, took up Ronaldo’s old spot and continued his good start to the season, scoring his 10th goal in his last 10 games and his fourth for the season. There were fears that Madrid wouldn’t have the same attacking threat without Ronaldo, however, Madrid have so far defied those expectations and have scored in every game so far this season. Despite the new “team over individual” mentality of the post Ronaldo era, there are still a number of individuals capable of winning a game for Los Blancos as demonstrated in each of the goals Madrid scored against Roma
We have already discussed Mariano’s golazo, however Isco opener was equally impressive. After dominating the first 45, it seemed Madrid would go into the break still awaiting the opener until Isco was taken down on the edge of the box. The Spaniard took full advantage of the position, finessing home a wonderful free kick. In midfield, Modric showed why he has received all the plaudits in recent months with a glorious pass to find Bale for his second.
Bigger tests lie in wait for the European champions, but if Wednesday’s victory over Roma was anything to go by, expect business as usual at the Bernabeu this season.