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Bale, Benzema, Hazard... and Vinicius


Carlo Ancelotti’s first line-up since his return to the Real Madrid job featured the recently-returned Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard partnering Benzema. At the back, he paired central defenders Militão and Nacho, who performed well together when called on at the tail end of last season, with David Alaba making his debut at left-back. In midfield, Toni Kroos’ absence wasn’t covered by Isco but by Fede Valverde. Significant decisions made by the coach - especially the ones concerning the attack. Bale and Hazard are both players who Madrid fans have expected a lot from, and in both cases, expectations were not met. Ancelotti hopes to put that right.

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Bale and Hazard, active and earnest

Both enjoyed a decent game. Hazard, looking visibly slimmer, looked active, was constantly seeking the ball, took risks and got himself into good positions inside the area. Over on the other side, Bale showed his pedigree and threatened with a handful of efforts on goal. When fully fit and with that disposition, they form a potent attack alongside Benzema (who has started the new season in the same superb form he ended the last). It was just a shame that both of them were reluctant to drop back and give their respective full-backs, Lucas and Alaba a helping hand when needed. Alavés, who looked solid and played with enthusiasm, attacked Madrid down both flanks on numerous occasions - one almost led to a goal and another almost ended with a penalty

Benzema puts Madrid on their way

But Madrid were too strong for them and the goals which didn’t arrive in the first half, came in a flurry in the second - three of them in a quarter of an hour spell; two from Benzema, who could be aiming to finish this season as the Pichichi, and another from Nacho. The game seemed over, and it practically was, but Militão gave the hosts the chance of a reprieve with a poor back-pass to Courtois which resulted in a penalty and goal for the home side. That gave Alavés a glimmer of hope but they couldn’t get back in it despite playing well during the dying minutes. And in the meantime, Ancelotti made a few changes, allowing Vinicius an opportunity to redeem himself, with a number of attacking runs and even a goal, from an Alaba pass. That papered over the cracks of what was a fairly middle-of-the-road performance by his standards.