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The Bernabéu falls for Rodrygo at first sight


With Zinedine Zidane’s Paris sinners redeemed in Seville, the Real Madrid manager looked to his second string for the visit of Osasuna. There were eight changes from the side that lost to PSG, among them the Ligue 1 side’s former goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who was given a rigorous introduction to the Bernabéu. Sergio Ramos and Casemiro were included – after all, it’s never wise to leave your pie to cool on the shelf outside the window – as was Toni Kroos, who took the opportunity to display calm and control in midfield with a few Hollywood attempts from distance that had the crows on their feet. As a side note, Nacho and Lucas Vázquez always follow orders. They have been at Real Madrid for eight and five years respectively and still warm the bench without complaint. That is the virtue of youth team products. That said, Nacho didn’t have a great game on Wednesday on the left of defence.

Osasuna boss Jagoba Arrasate also shuffled his pack, although not quite as much. The result was a game played out by both sides with a hint of dullness, which is normal when your natural rhythm has been mislaid. Osasuna were the more dangerous side in the first half but lacked a cutting edge. Madrid also created few chances, but more than the visitors. A glorious run from Álvaro Odriozola almost led to an opening goal that would eventually come when Kroos latched onto a defensive error and teed up Vinicius, who found his space and hit a solid strike, albeit one that arrived with a spit more venom after clipping the foot of Raúl Navas. After his effort, the Brazilian broke into tears. He needed that goal, as he needs confidence; both on his own part and on that of the Bernabéu.

Rodrygo presents his credentials

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The real news on the night was the irresistible presentation of Rodrygo, who came on for his compatriot in line with the instinctive habit of coaches to take off the goal scorer when a change needs to be made, on the basis that the player hooked will be in a good mood and won’t argue. No sooner had he come on than Rodrygo controlled an excellent ball from Casemiro with a deft touch, jinking into the area to score a crisp and eye-pleasing goal, one of those that mark out a genuine striker. And at exactly the moment that Osasuna were threatening to level. Rodrygo’s goal effectively ended a game that left Real Madrid top of the league, with Zidane leaning on his fringe players and the big guns rested for the derby with a new name on the lips of Madrid fans: Rodrygo.