Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo were on target as Real Madrid opened their La Liga campaign with a 2-0 win over newly-promoted Cordoba at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night.
It was a surprisingly hard-fought victory in the end for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, as their opponents threw up a very stubborn resistance on their return to the top flight after 42 years away.
Los Galacticos took half an hour to break the deadlock as Benzema powered home a header, before Ronaldo finally put the contest to bed in the final minute with a long-range effort.
The Portuguese had a penalty appeal waved away after just six minutes when he went down under a light challenge as he looked to latch onto Marcelo’s deep cross. He was well-denied by Cordoba keeper Martinez Juan Carlos 13 minutes later, as the stopper held on to his first-time effort after a clever free kick from Luka Modric.
Rodriguez league debut
£63 million man James Rodriguez was making his first league appearance on Monday evening, and his first big involvement was on 25 minutes. His cleverly-lofted pass found Sergio Ramos in space, but the defender scuffed his volley into the grateful arms of Juan Carlos.
Toni Kroos was also making his domestic bow and his driven effort called the visitors’ number one into action once again, as he got strong hands on a shot that was destined for the far corner.
There was nothing he could do on the half-hour mark though, when Kroos’ corner was met by a bullet of a header from Benzema that flashed home via the post.
Albert Ferrer’s Cordoba won promotion to the Primera Division in the most dramatic of circumstances last season, and 1500 travelling fans saw their side on top in the early stages of the second half as Santos Matos produced a snapshot that was well held by Iker Casillas.
Juan Carlos was in fine form at the other end as he got strong palms on Rodriguez’s fierce shot, and his side were unlucky not to equalise with 20 minutes to go. Fidel’s low drive was parried by Casillas and substitute Xisco put the rebound home, but was ruled out after he strayed marginally offside.
For all their hard work though, the visitors eventually succumbed to their superior opponents in the dying minutes. The offside flag had denied Ronaldo after he tucked home Modric’s through ball, but there was no preventing him three minutes later. Receiving the ball after Isco stole possession for the hosts, he took a touch before unleashing a trademark effort from 30 yards that bounced over the despairing dive of Juan Carlos.
It was far from a flying start from the European champions, but a win is a win and they have an all-important three points on the board. Their opponents may have been second best today but if they can maintain the performance levels they showed today, they could certainly surprise a few teams this season.