Foot­ball: Madrid open the flood­gates at long last with goal flurry in Plzen

But it is not all pos­i­tive for Los Blan­cos as Ramos pro­duces a wild el­bow

Sport360 - - Front Page - By Matt Mon­aghan @mattmon­aghan360 ✉ mattmon­aghan@sport360.com

Karim Ben­zema and Gareth Bale led the way for Real Madrid as they bat­tered Vik­to­ria Plzen in the Cham­pi­ons League.

Top ver­sus bot­tom met in Group G and a pre­dictably one-sided con­test fol­lowed – un­like the nervy 2-1 re­verse win put in by Los Blan­cos as Julen Lopetegui’s reign un­rav­elled.

Here is the re­port card from Doosan Arena.

30-sec­ond re­port

Madrid trav­elled east with crit­i­cism ring­ing in their ears from the week­end’s un­sightly – and for­tu­nate – tri­umph against Real Val­ladolid.

They wasted lit­tle time in pro­vid­ing a re­tort. Karim Ben­zema art­fully danced clear for the opener, prior to a pair of head­ers from Brazil an­chor­man Casemiro and the afore­men­tioned French striker, plus ma­ligned Wales for­ward Gareth Bale’s vol­ley.

The best was saved for the sec­ond half. Sub­sti­tute Vini­cius Ju­nior charged clear and played in Ger­many metronome Toni Kroos, who del­i­cately lobbed a first-time ef­fort.

A wild, early el­bow from skip­per Ser­gio Ramos was the only neg­a­tive.

The good

Be­fore Wed­nes­day night’s walkover, Ben­zema and Bale had con­trib­uted just nine goals to the Madrid cause in 2018/19.

A pal­try re­turn for a team that has lost the crush­ing weight of num­bers pro­duced by now-Ju­ven­tus su­per­star Cris­tiano Ronaldo. Lit­tle won­der that then-mis­fir­ing Bale ex­ited San­ti­ago Bern­abeu dur­ing the week­end’s dif­fi­cult 2-0 win against Val­ladolid to a cas­cade of boos.

The pair were back to their preda­tory best against Plzen. Ben­zema skipped through for a de­light­ful opener – a land­mark 200th goal for Madrid – and headed in the third, with Bale also prof­ited aeri­ally to make it 4-0.

If care­taker San­ti­ago So­lari’s only last­ing im­print is a re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of this duo, he’ll have done his job.

The bad

A trail of blood­ied and bro­ken op­po­nents seem to fol­low Ramos.

The vet­eran cen­tre-back was highly for­tu­nate to es­cape a 25th red card for Madrid when a wild – and un­nec­es­sary – el­bow made bru­tal con­tact with Mi­lan Havel’s nose in the 13th minute. The mid­fielder in­stantly crum­pled to his knees as claret poured out and the per­pe­tra­tor feigned typ­i­cal in­no­cence.

Se­vere pun­ish­ment should have fol­lowed.

Ramos, con­se­quen­tially, got away with the ‘chicken wing’ that dam­aged Mo­hamed Salah’s shoul­der and the wild el­bow that dazed Loris Kar­ius in last term’s Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal ver­sus Liver­pool.

This pat­tern of vi­o­lent be­hav­iour was es­tab­lished more than a decade ago. Why ref­er­ees are now let­ting him off is un­ac­cept­able.

Tac­ti­cal turn­ing point

So­lari’s past as a winger of some re­pute has been highly vis­i­ble dur­ing his three-game, tem­po­rary, Madrid reign.

More than 40 crosses were pumped in dur­ing the for­tu­nate vic­tory against Val­ladolid upon his La Liga bow. Crit­i­cism for this ap­proach was just as plen­ti­ful.

The ex-Ar­gentina in­ter­na­tional could eas­ily have folded in the face of such op­pro­brium. Yet, when a star-stud­ded mid­field still has the propen­sity to play as if wad­ing through trea­cle, a re­duc­tive ap­proach is re­quired.

Against Plzen, Casemiro scored di­rect from a cor­ner, plus Bale and Ben­zema struck a header and vol­ley apiece.

It’s rarely pretty. But it is ef­fec­tive.

All smiles: Real Madrid’s sea­son to for­get ex­pe­ri­enced a rare high point in the Czech Repub­lic.

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