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REAL MADRID

Real Madrid: Luka Jovic finally off the mark against Leganés

The Serbia striker finally found the net for Real Madrid against Leganés after 479 minutes of friendly and competitive action for the club.

Luka Jovic finally broke his Real Madrid duck on Wednesday during what proved to be a case of shooting fish in a barrel as LaLiga table-proppers Leganés were dispatched with little fuss in the Bernabéu, bringing an end to a barren run for the Serbia striker. Purchased from Eintracht Frankfurt for €60 million last summer on the back of a stunning 27-goal season, Jovic was expected to provide competition for Karim Benzema – or even to nick the Frenchman’s place in the starting line-up if he suffered another dip in form similar to 2017-18.

But Jovic swiftly became yesterday’s man after his arrival in Madrid. Benzema came out of the blocks firing and has seven goals in nine Liga outings, while support for the number nine has come from all quarters from the squad, squeezing Jovic out of the picture and restricting him largely to appearances from the bench. The only occasion the 21-year-old completed 90 minutes was in the 2-0 victory over Osasuna, when he was overshadowed by teenaged Brazilians Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo. Zinedine Zidane has experimented with Jovic and Benzema in tandem from the start twice – in the 2-2 draw against Villarreal and the 1-0 loss in Mallorca. Both times the Serbian was the first player to be hooked.

To add insult to injury, Gonçalo Paciência, a 3m 2018 acquisition from Porto has eased into the role of Frankfurt’s main goalscorer with eight in 20 across all competitions after spending most of last season on the bench and injured with a torn meniscus. Jovic last found the net on 10 June, for Serbia in a 4-1 stroll against Lithuania. If anything, the striker's primary role at Madrid until Wednesday seemed to be as a cautionary tale for the likes of Erling Braut Haaland

Jovic throws off the yoke against Leganés

Even against Leganés it seemed that Jovic’s luck had deserted him. A 70th minute substitute for Benzema, the striker had the ball in the net three minutes later only for VAR to thumb its increasingly tiresome nose at the effort.

Benzema can confirm that for all the effort in the world, a Real Madrid striker is ultimately judged by the number of goals scored and there was a palpable sense of relief when Jovic finally found the net in the 90th minute. “We’re happy for him. Luka needed that,” Zidane said succinctly after the game.

There are caveats of course: Leganés are not the stiffest opposition in the league and have won only once all season. Only Betis have conceded more often. And it was a last-minute goal in a game that was effectively over when Toni Kroos made it 2-0 before there were 10 minutes on the clock. Jovic is finally off the mark but it remains to be seen how he fares from here with Benzema in such irresistible form and Zidane well-stocked with attacking players.