As if Real Madrid’s 5-0 drubbing of Deportivo La Coruna on January 10 was not enough, the new Real boss was greeted to another goal-fest by his frontline trinity of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. On match-day 21 of Spain’s Primera Division on January 17, the fans at Santiago Bernabeu saw Ronaldo and Benzema scoring two goals each with Gareth Bale adding one more in the home side’s 5-1 victory against Sporting Gijon. The three of them have together scored 10 goals in two matches, much to the delight of Zinedine Zidane, whose 180-plus minutes with his new assignment could not have been spent in any better way. Two thumping victories in one week have taken Real Madrid to second place ahead of FC Barcelona’s 42 points in the league table. With 20 matches so far, Atletico Madrid are still at the top with 47 points while Real Madrid have 43 also from 20 matches. FC Barcelona is at third place but they have played only 18 matches. With the next league game for Real Madrid coming up on January 24 against Real Betis, the optimistic Zidane will hope for another crushing performance from his boys, though Benzema and Bale have injury scares.
Gareth Bale opened the scoring in the 7th minute for Real Madrid on Sunday, when Toni Kroos sent a corner to the perfectly placed Welshman. Bale’s sweetly timed header found its mark and Real Madrid took a 1-0 lead. Two minutes later, Benzema sent a fine ball to Ronaldo, who spun around, steadied himself and fired a left-footer from 18 yards that found the top corner. After Ronaldo’s incredible shot into the Sporting goal made it 2-0 for Real, it was the turn of Karim Benzema in the 12th minute. The Frenchman did not look in a great position, when Bale sent a cross to him from right. But the brilliant Benzema surprised Sporting defenders as he produced a stunning bicycle kick that flew to the bottom corner. With his side taking a massive 3-0 lead inside the first quarter of an hour, Zinedine Zidane was visibly ecstatic. The fourth goal for the rampant Real was not far away. It came from Ronaldo, who moved quickly after watching Dani Carvajal shaping for a low cross. The Portuguese produced a fine left-footed shot that went to the far corner.
4 goals in 18 minutes made the mood at Santiago Bernabeu electrifying as the crowd began singing happy birthday rhymes for Alvaro Arbeloa. The 40th minute saw a 1-2 between Benzema and Ronaldo that almost resulted into another goal. They moved from their end of the ground all the way to the Sporting goal. However, Benzema couldn’t convert a great move backed up by a roaring Bernabeu crowd. The Frenchman, however, was rewarded in less than a minute, when Isco sent him a delicate ball and this time Benzema didn’t miss.
With 5 goals scored 4 minutes before halftime, Zidane and Real Madrid fans couldn’t have asked for more. But, in between, Bale and Benzema picked up injuries and Zidane had some concern. He brought in Jese Rodrigues after the break but that did not add to Real’s tally of goals further. A relaxed Real Madrid paid the price when Sporting launched an attack and scored in the 62nd minute. Jony turned provider as he sent a promising cross for Isma Lopez, who took advantage of Real’s sloppy defending as he shot through and reduced the deficit to 5-1.
Regardless, the consolation goal by Sporting did little to dampen the feel-good factor that has been sweeping across Bernabeu after Zidane’s arrival. There were some sore notes in the match though. Zidane kept Colombian James Rodrigues away for most part just as his predecessor Rafael Benitez had been doing. James was brought in only for a few minutes but by then, nothing needed to be done. For next Sunday’s game with Betis, Zidane has kept the cards close to his chest. James’ tenure at Bernabeu is causing serious issues and whether or not, he would find his place in the next game is a huge question mark. If Bale and Benzema don’t figure in the starting line-up against Betis, James should logically find a place. However, James inclusion in the playing XI has more to do with his current relationship with Real Madrid bosses than his football talent. With rumors circulating about James’ possible acquisition by Manchester United, time only will tell the truth.