Real Madrid continued their unbeaten start under Santiago Solari with a hard fought 4-2 win over Celta Vigo at the Abanca-Balaidos, on an eventful day in La Liga.
Karim Benzema starred for the Los Blancos to close the gap on leaders Barcelona – who suffered a shock home defeat against Real Betis. The Frenchman opened the scoring, before having a hand Real’s second – only for Hugo Mallo to pull one back for the hosts.
An audacious penalty from Sergio Ramos and Dani Cabellos’ curling effort made it 4-1, with Brais Mendez netting a late consolation.
Check out our breakdown of the game below.
Key Talking Point
Santiago Solari’s fourth consecutive win as caretaker manager wasn’t pretty at times, but ultimately effective. Having come in to the fray following Julen Lopetegui’s dismissal last month, it seems the former Real player has invigorated a team previously lacking in confidence.
Despite the fragility of Real’s back line, Solari would have been delighted at his side’s creative play and clinical finishing – illustrated in the first goal.
Both instrumental, Luka Modric’s sublime ball over the host’s defence was dispatched from Benzema who could have had five on the night.
Starting XI: Courtois (7), Odriozola (7), Nacho (6), Ramos (7), Reguilon (7), Kroos (8), Casemiro (6), Modric (7), Vasquez (6), Benzema (9*), Bale (7).
Substitutes: Asensio (5), Ceballos (7), Sanchez (5).
STAR MAN – Karim Benzema
Karim Benzema certainly answered his fair share of critics and suggested he could be Real’s main man this season. Having threatened early on, he gave his side the lead with a carbon copy of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal for Juventus in the Champions League last Wednesday.
Although Real’s second goal was ruled as a Gustavo Cabral own-goal, the French international played a huge part and tormented the Celta defence throughout with his hold-up play, balance and finishing nous.
WORST PLAYER – Javi Sanchez
Having replaced Sergio Reguillon on the stroke of half-time, Javi Sanchez’s first appearance in Madrid colours was difficult. Up against the energetic Mallo, the youth product was unable to prevent the experienced defender from scoring.
Perhaps harsh, but a learning curve for the 21-year-old.
Key Talking Point
Despite being the second highest scoring team at home behind Barcelona in 2018, it was their defensive naivety that proved Celta’s downfall on the night.
They could do nothing about Benzema’s opening goal, but mistakes from Cabral and David Junca were punished by the La Liga giants.
Starting XI: Alvarez (7), Mallo (7), Cabral (5), Roncaglia (5), Junca (5), Yokuslu (6), Beltran (6), Aspas (7), Mendez (6), Boufal (5), Gomez (6)
Substitutes: Mor (6), Hjulsager (6).
STAR MAN – Hugo Mallo
A threat all night, Hugo Mallo’s first goal since October 2016 gave Celta a glimmer of hope with a well-taken volley. Linking up with the impressive Mendez, the right-wing back caused havoc against his opposite number Sanchez and performed far better than his defensive counterparts.
WORST PLAYER – Gustavo Cabral
At fault for Real’s second goal, Gustavo Cabral’s night ended early having picked up two bookings. He endured a torrid evening against Benzema and was clumsy at times. In truth, his evening could have been worse – but for his keeper’s impressive saves in the first-half.
Despite Real gathering momentum in recent weeks, the international break could prove handy with a number of injuries. Duo Casemiro and Reguilon were both replaced, in a growing injury list that includes first team regulars Marcelo, Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal.
Meanwhile, Celta’s form will be a concern for Antonio Mohamed, whose side will look to re-group for their next league game at Real Sociedad after the international break.