It was a happy night at the Bernabéu, crowned with a resounding 3-0 result, where Mariano scored the final goal that was the icing on the cake. Moulded in Los Blancos' youth team, then developed further in France, he arrived at the last minute of the summer window. Quite possibly he would not have come had it not been for the loss to Atlético in the Super Cup. The fact is that he is here, and that yesterday he came on and scored a wonderful goal. It was the icing on top, as I said, because by then Madrid already had the game sewn up thanks to two other goals of similar class. One, a perfect dead-ball strike from Isco, the other a Modric-fed Bale run, down the left like a bullet, before drilling the strike across goal, just inside the far post.
Madrid: more than just the Gala XI
A great Madrid, with and without Mariano. Lopetegui surprised many with his starting line-up by removing Courtois and Asensio from the San Mamés team, and bringing in Keylor and Isco. There is a feeling (one, incidentally, I also get) that each team has its 'gala XI' and that the rest of the squad are back-up, only used when one of the main stars falters or goes missing. But football has not been like that for quite some time, each side comprised of a 'key' fourteen, sixteen, or even more. This is how the big teams are now, which clearly includes Lopetegui's Madrid, with the added bonus that in their case they have two extremely capable goalkeepers. Keylor was applauded last night for two individual pieces of brilliance.
Cristiano's contrasting night
In short, it was a beautiful match, with a Madrid that showed intensity, pressing, solidarity and joy. The Bernabéu crowd revelled in their evening, on a night that coincided with a serious setback for former star Cristiano, whose Juventus side were victorious in Valencia, but where he saw red. In my opinion, it was a fickle interruption by the referee's assistant, who got the referee embroiled by making a mountain out of a molehill. But the fact is that Brych, dragged in by his meddling colleague, sent Ronaldo off. And, as things stand, he is likely to now miss three games. Cristiano did very little wrong and left the field in tears. His Juve won 0-2 at Valencia, but I doubt that will appease the outrage.