Only 19,874 fans were there to see it, because of restrictions owing to covid-19 and the stadium works, but they’ll cherish the memory forever. The return to the Santiago Bernabéu, which hasn’t yet been fully revamped but is visibly starting to take shape, proved a great evening. There was a lovely pre-match tribute to former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz - under whom the club regained the European Cup and the commercial rights that are the basis of its financial strength today - and when play got underway, Vinicius Junior left us in no doubt at all that he has now blossomed into much more than just a prospect with an uncertain future. He was supported by a Karim Benzema who is now firmly established as a world star, and we also witnessed a debut goal for Eduardo Camavinga.
Real Madrid win game that felt like a clash of yesteryear
We were treated to seven goals in total, Real Madrid winning by a 5-2 scoreline which, I’m not sure why, has always seemed to me like the most attractive result in football. A 5-0 or 5-1 thrashing is indicative of too great an imbalance between the sides, but that’s not the case with 5-2. Last night, it was the result of a game reminiscent of old times, when defending wasn’t such an advanced science, when the midfield could be bypassed without obstruction and when defenders sweated blood to stop forwards who often outnumbered them. And, it has to be said, the defenders didn’t cover themselves in glory anyway, above all Celta Vigo’s. The contrast between their good attacking and bad defending was particularly striking.
It was a night where Vinicius’ reputation grew further. We can now venture to say that he has the finishing to go with his ability to beat players. He has four LaLiga goals already this term, having mustered just three in the whole of last season. Benzema is ahead of him with five, making him the league’s top scorer, but that’s no surprise: he pushed on to become a top striker a while ago now. Eden Hazard started well but faded, and as things stand is well off Vinicius and Benzema’s level of performance. One other thing to note: Fede Valverde has overtaken Isco and Marco Asensio in the pecking order, and Camavinga is breathing down their necks, too. Carlo Ancelotti was right to bring him on; he knew his debut was on the programme of festivities, and the Frenchman didn’t disappoint. The reopening of Madrid’s hallowed home ground certainly lived up to expectations.