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Real Madrid defy expectations in LaLiga win over Celta Vigo


Radio and television journalists often say they're sharpened up by the pressure of going out live. Among the written press pack, there's a similar phenomenon: when you're battling against the clock to get an article out, the brain seems to work that little bit faster. I couldn't help thinking about that as I watched Real Madrid win so impressively in Galicia after enduring such a desultory pre-season. When the rehearsals were over and the curtain came up for real, they delivered a performance of solidity and no little quality to beat Celta Vigo, despite being a man down for almost all of the second half. "We've got a great team," Zinedine Zidane had insisted. And lo and behold, that's what we saw at Balaídos.

Few would have predicted Bale redemption

It really is a funny old game. With any luck he'll have been sold by tomorrow, Zidane had said of Gareth Bale a month ago. Fast forward to the opening weekend of LaLiga, and he not only starts, but sets up the first goal magnificently and puts in a fine all-round performance - at least during a first 45 in which he was perhaps spurred on by the freshly-watered sheen of a pitch so immaculate it could have doubled up as a putting green. None more so than Bale, Madrid were a team who, to a man, stuck firmly to their task. A side so leaky in defence all summer scarcely put a foot wrong, and when they were caught out, either VAR or Thibaut Courtois stepped in. Only at the very end, when they were already home and hosed, did they concede.

Real Madrid's players celebrate Toni Kroos scoring their second goal against Celta Vigo on Saturday afternoon.
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Real Madrid's players celebrate Toni Kroos scoring their second goal against Celta Vigo on Saturday afternoon.Octavio PassosGetty Images

Celta didn't do a lot wrong, in truth, but they didn't have a Bale at their disposal to conjure up the first goal, or a Toni Kroos to wallop in the second, or a Karim Benzema to lay on the third with a lovely piece of play. If each side wants it as much as the other, the better one usually wins. Despite Zidane basically sending out the same team that began last term by boring us to tears and finished it by looking like it just couldn't be bothered, Madrid defied all expectations with a commanding win - one that had the added bonus of coming hot on the heels of Barcelona's opening-night defeat at San Mamés. As they bid to bounce back from last year's wretched campaign, this start really is what the doctor ordered.