Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo were on target as Real Madrid registered their first three points of the new campaign against Cordoba on Sunday night, but the team lacked the drive, panache and killer instinct for which they have become synonymous.
The newcomers were cursed with the herculean task of taking on the european champions in their first top flight match since 1972. Easy picking for Ronaldo and Co. in foresight; yet Cordoba, especially during the second half, stifled Madrid, making goals hard to come by.
The first 45 by contrast was littered with chances. Ronaldo had early claims for a penalty waved away, despite the Portuguese appearing to be shoved by Crespo in his attempts to latch onto Marcelo’s cross.
Ronaldo was given his first real sight of goal after 20 minutes, as Luka Modric’s clever free-kick found the winger on the edge of the area, but his shot could only sting the palms of Juan Carlos in the Cordoba goal.
Carlos also stopped efforts from Sergio Ramos and Toni Kroos, but his heroics could not prevent Real’s offensive assault from finally yielding an important first La Liga goal of the season, which came from the head of Benzema.
The Frenchman has been unable to replicate his World Cup form for Real thus far, with only one goal in 16 matches before hitting the back of the net on the half-hour mark, as he rose highest from a Kroos corner.
New signings James Rodriguez and Kroos were given their La Liga debuts, with the latter operating in a double-pivot role in midfield with Modric. Neither are naturally defensive players, which at times left gaps for Cordoba exploit.
Japanese striker Mike Havenaar passed up the Andalusian’s best chance to level the match, as he headed Rossi’s corner inches from Iker Casillas’ goal under heavy pressure from Sergio Ramos.
During the second half, Cordoba dropped deeper, perhaps accepting of a narrow defeat to their illustrious opponents at the Bernabeu, making fast-paced counter-attacking football which served Madrid well.
With Real’s search for an elusive second looking futile, Carlo Ancelotti withdrew Rodriguez in favour of the man he dropped to accommodate the Colombian; Isco.
The young Spaniard injected a sense of urgency, and the flashes of talent were a timely reminder to his manager of his evident quality.
Madrid's aggressive attempts for a second goal left them exposed, with Aleksandar Pantic and Fidel having shots on goal, with the latter's effort requiring the gloves of Casillas to keep it out.
Real endeavoured in their quest for a second, and thought they had it when Ronaldo squeezed a shot under Juan Carlos, only for the effort to be ruled out for offside.
But last season’s top scorer refused to leave without a goal, and a minute from the end, Ronaldo made his mark on the match. He unleashed a powerful, dipping shot which bested Corral at his near post.
The goal added some much-needed gloss to the scoreline, as the result could have been so different. Even a 2-0 result at home is far from convincing against this calibre of opponent ( with no disrespect to Cordoba), and Ancelotti will want a better showing against Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Goals: Benzema (30'), Ronaldo (89')
Bookings: Pinillos,Lopez Garai, Benzema
Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa (Carvajal), Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Kroos, Modric, Rodriguez (Isco), Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema (Khedira)
Cordoba: Juan Carlos, Gunino, Pinillos (Nicolás Cartabia - 45' ), Crespo, Inigo Lopez, Pantic, Matos ( Fidel Chaves de la Torre), Rossi, Lopez Garai, Lopez de Silva, Havenaar (Jiménez Tejada - 67' )