Bale brace delights Bernabéu as Real Madrid thump Celta Vigo
With little at stake for either team, Zidane's side gave the Santiago Bernabéu crowd a suitable farewell as Bale, Isco, Achraf, Kroos got on the scoresheet.
Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo: match report
Celta Vigo arrived at the Santiago Bernabéu with only their middle-of-the-table position at stake. European qualification was well out of reach; relegation long dismissed. But the early signs from the Galicians was that they'd at least put up a fight, despite only one win in their last nine games. It didn't last long.
Zinedine Zidane sent out his Real Madrid side with a few clear objectives: get the three points, show me you're serious contenders for my starting eleven in Kiev, and, something that has been distinctly lacking this season, give our fans something to really enjoy. The players delivered.
Bale set the tone, Isco followed
Gareth Bale was first to shine. His opening brace was what set the tone for much of the rest of the game. First, with less than 15 minutes on the clock, the Welshman was put into his stride by the always-busy Luka Modric and from outside the area sweeped home in off the right post. On the half hour, better was to come. Cutting back inside the covering defender on the right, when little seemed on, Bale seemed to count his steps before lashing home a controlled curl. There have been times when too much has been made of Madrid's number 11 scoring a simple brace: tonight he deserves all the plaudits.
Isco joined Bale and Benzema in a Cristiano-less Madrid side and was the player who had released his teammate for the second. With the tide growing ever stronger towards the Celta goal, it was the immensely talented Spaniard who claimed the third, just two minutes after, a wonderful curl from the magician's right foot beyond the diving Sergio.
Direction change, flow the same
Half time changed the direction of play but not the flow to the game. Achraf Hakimi has had his critics after some less than convincing performances in Dani Carvajal's absence, so much so that non right backs have filled in before him. But tonight he looked a confident deputy and one that added a goal to his constant threat down the right. Changes came from Zidane and one of those, the ever-impressive Marco Asensio, fired in a cross from the left which was turned in by the covering defender Sergi Gomez. Toni Kroos added the gloss after good play from Mayoral, another given a late run out.
The narrative on the back of this convincing win is easy: a massive confidence boost ahead of a Champions League final and a warning cry to their opposition. That shouldn't mask the fact that Celta Vigo carried nothing like the potency or control that Liverpool do on an evening where they had very little bite, never mind bark. Zidane still has another Liga game to put his final touches in place. Everything is focused on Kiev.
Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo: minute-by-minute
Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo: preview
Tonight's match is one that has little meaning to the league table but there are plenty of other side stories to keep us interested. Madrid have a top four place guaranteed - incredibly we were actually questioning this just a couple of months ago - and Celta sit amidst the mid-table cluster of teams with nothing of substance on the line.
For Zidane this is a chance to try out some new ideas, or strengthen some faltering ones, ahead of the Champions League final where his side will face a team with a very distinctive approach. Liverpool await Los Blancos in Kiev and stopping Jürgen Klopp's record-breaking attack will likely be key to a third consecutive European title. With Cristiano Ronaldo and Dani Carvajal in recovery for the last league game and then final, the French coach can give a run out to young Achraf at full back and Isco, Bale and Benzema can prove they are worthy of starting position in the Uefa showpiece.
Juan Carlos Unzué will be without his top scorer Iago Aspas who will start on the bench after around a month out injured but will expect his side to make a better showing than of late. The team visit the Spanish capital on a horrific run, winning just one of their last nine, and sit safe in the middle of the table. Maxi Gómez will be their main goal threat from the start, but if the home side have the impetus Zidane is looking for then chances may be few and far between.