Zinedine Zidane’s second spell as Real Madrid coach began with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Celta Vigo in La Liga, as the recently sidelined Isco and Gareth Bale got themselves on the scoresheet.
The fact that Isco, who had been ostracised under Santi Solari, scored the opener was a perfect sign that Zidane is ready to fix all that has gone wrong this season. Bale’s performance and goal showed there seems to be no hard feelings over the falling out with the French coach last season either.
For much of the game you could see why Julen Lopetegui and Santi Solari wanted to shake this Madrid side up. A team more confident than relegation battlers Celta would surely have punished the slackness throughout the team when the game remained 0-0 through the first hour.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Zidane got the old gang back together, returning to the XI many players left out as Lopetegui and Solari tried to transition to a new side. And, as usual, everything came up Zizou — with the team not entirely convincing but winning anyway. The Bernabeu was happy again, as were the club’s official Ultras who sang the former Galactico’s name to the tune of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Keylor Navas, 7 — Back in the team in place of Thibaut Courtois, Navas made a fine reflex save from Maxi Gomez’s header as Celta had the game’s first clear chance. Otherwise had little to do.
DF Alvaro Odriozola, 7 — The only starter not to play under Zidane before, and only because Dani Carvajal is injured. Got forward well as usual without creating too much.
DF Raphael Varane, 7 — Dealt competently with what a very unconfident Celta attack threw at him.
DF Sergio Ramos, 7 — Put in a more focused performance than recently, and he came close to opening the scoring with a first half header from a corner which flashed just wide.
DF Marcelo, 7 — Returning to starting XI in place of the unfortunate Sergio Reguilon, Marcelo showed characteristic spark in attack, including a driving run which led to Bale’s goal. But also left gaps behind which Celta were unable to exploit.
MF Luka Modric, 8 — Grew into the game when Madrid needed to up the pace after half-time. Found the net with a 20-yard shot after a corner landed at his feet, but officials ruled it out for offside as Varane obstructed Celta keeper Ruben Blanco. A clever interception near halfway soon kick-started the move for the opening goal.
MF Toni Kroos, 7 — Came close to opening the scoring with a 25-yard shot which skimmed the top of net and, as usual this season, his set-piece delivery was one of Madrid’s few major weapons.
MF Isco, 7 — Isco’s first La Liga start since October was the biggest sign that Zidane has taken back control. The forward looked a yard short of pace and was often caught in possession, but then appeared in the right place at the right time to finish an excellent move and give Madrid the lead.
FW Marco Asensio, 8 — Another who seemed immediately buoyed by Zidane’s return. Had a decent penalty claim near half-time turned down after VAR consultation, and a run past three defenders led directly to Isco’s goal.
FW Karim Benzema, 6 — Pretty quiet performance from Madrid’s No. 9 who looks tired after little rest this season. His best moment was the drilled cross assist for the opening goal.
FW Gareth Bale, 7 — Seemed eager to impress and smacked a bouncing ball off the crossbar from 10 yards in the first half, but was then yellow carded for an elbow on Celta’s Kevin Vazquez when breaking through defence. He finally found the net with a right-foot effort off the post to wrap up the points with 15 mins remaining.
MF Dani Ceballos, 6 — Replaced Isco immediately after the Andalusian opened the scoring, and slotted into midfield to help keep Madrid in control.
MF Fede Valverde, 6 — Solari’s favourite son came in to give Modric a rest with Madrid’s dominance assured. That will have been a boost for the youngster, who might have felt threatened by Zidane’s return.
FW Mariano, N/R — Another player to feature very little so far this season, but had no chance to stake his claim during a late run.