Benzema, James, Hazard... and VAR

It was one of those games which leaves you with plenty to think about. Firstly, Benzema, who was superb last season and is looking even better this season. He got Madrid into gear by scoring the opening two goals and struck the post with another fine shot. In short, he’s a guarantee. Then James, the little boy lost only to be rediscovered inside a temple. He delighted the Bernabéu in his first season but then faded for reasons only he will know about but now he’s back and showing the player he is – exquisite on the ball when Madrid surged forward, relentless in winning the ball back and complying with his defensive duties. He was the one who switched on the light whenever the team got close to the Levante box and knew all the right manouvres to accelerate the team’s moves forward.

James Rodríguez

Hazard's home debut at the Bernabéu

It was because of those two and a communal effort by Madrid that the scoreboard read 3-0 at half-time. At that point, it looked like it was game over and seemingly the ideal moment to bring Hazard on, and present the signing of the summer to the home fans. He looked keen in his first sprints into the visitors’ box – Aitor denied him from scoring with one of several excellent saves. And by his side there was a Vinicius brimming with optimism and looking more self-assured than he had during the opening 45 minutes; his anxiety was only briefly snuffed out when one of his crosses reached Casemiro for the third goal. This Madrid may not have Cristiano, but they have other, very good contrasting players in attack.

Eden Hazard makes his Bernabéu debut

Nonsensical use of VAR

Madrid’s happiness was short-lived for two reasons – a glass jaw and VAR. In the second half Levante became a little more brazen (especially after Casemiro and Sergio Ramos were taken off), scored two goals and came very close to grabbing a third which, had it entered would have been a bitter pill for Madrid to swallow. Since 11 April, Madrid have not been able to keep a clean sheet. That’s an area where they are letting points slip or being eliminated from cup ties. And VAR? It was the party pooper in what otherwise was a decent game with plenty of goals. It was called on twice, both times causing long delays and showed the pointless side of its invention. The new system, implemented by Rubiales during one of his tantrums, is now slow and time-consuming. And when it’s used for no good reason, it’s even worse.