Karim Benzema scored twice as Real Madrid won 4-1 away at Alaves in their first game of the new LaLiga season. In a first half of few chances, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema all shot off target from distance. Alaves' best opportunity fell to midfielder Pere Pons, whose smartly taken effort landed on the roof of the net.
Benzema opened the scoring after 47 minutes, seizing on Hazard's clever backheel to fire past goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco. Ten minutes later, Nacho reacted quickly to convert Luka Modric's ball into the box. When Benzema grabbed his second, Madrid were looking comfortable, before a careless mistake from Eder Militao led Thibaut Courtois to concede a penalty which Joselu converted, and then substitute Vinicius scored with a header in added time.
This Real Madrid team is still very much a work-in-progress for coach Carlo Ancelotti, but there were some encouraging signs here. Benzema looks set to continue leading the team from the front and shouldering the majority of the goalscoring burden. Alongside him, Hazard appeared to be playing with more freedom than last season. His ingenious touch for the opening goal suggested a player finally starting to find his confidence. It would be a major boost to Madrid's prospects if the Belgian could begin to contribute with any kind of regularity.
David Alaba marked his competitive debut with a late assist. It remains to be seen whether full-back will be his regular position, but he combined well with Hazard and Modric on the left-hand side.
Madrid's new first-choice centre-back pairing of Nacho and Eder Militao have an impossible act to follow in Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. Both showed at times last season that they could aspire to fit the part -- Militao, especially, enhanced his reputation enormously -- but here there were moments of uncertainty.
Militao's mistake at 3-0, needlessly gifting Alaves a chance which became a penalty, turned what looked a very straightforward win into a more awkward last 20 minutes. The Brazilian needs to eradicate such momentary lapses of concentration from his game.
Manager rating out of 10 (6 is average)
8 -- A winning start for Carlo Ancelotti, with the team playing some lovely football at times, is all the returning coach could really have asked for. His 4-3-3, with Hazard and Bale coming inside close to Benzema and full-backs Alaba and Lucas Vazquez providing width, worked well, at least against this level of opponent.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 6 -- Conceded the penalty, although Militao deserves the criticism, and then went the wrong way as he tried to save it. Otherwise had little to do.
DF Lucas Vazquez, 7 -- Such a consistent performer at right-back now that he no longer deserves to be described as makeshift. The referee decided his raised arm inside the box in the first half was not handball.
DF Nacho, 8 -- Had a real battle with Alaves forward Joselu, a former teammate at youth level. Scored the crucial second goal. Now one of the team's leaders.
DF Eder Militao, 5 -- Did extremely well last year; now he must consolidate that progress and establish himself in the team. Mistakes like today's won't help in that regard.
DF David Alaba, 8 -- With Ferland Mendy and Marcelo both absent, Alaba is a top-class alternative at left-back. Looked comfortable all game, and his pinpoint cross found Vinicius to head the fourth goal in added time.
MF Casemiro, 7 -- Not his most eye-catching game -- he saves them for when he's needed most. Could play a slightly deeper role under Ancelotti than he tended to for Zidane.
MF Fede Valverde, 7 -- Ancelotti has reportedly already been hugely impressed with the Uruguayan, planning to use him in a regular dynamic midfield role. Shot well over the bar late on.
MF Luka Modric, 8 -- Ageless. As good as ever. Provided the ball into the box for Nacho's goal that essentially ended the contest.
FW Eden Hazard, 8 -- A gorgeous backheel assist for Benzema's goal. After two lost seasons, this one is beyond make or break for Hazard. This was a decent start.
FW Gareth Bale, 6 -- It feels somewhat strange to see Real Madrid start the season with Bale back in the team. He had his moments in the first half, but faded.
FW Karim Benzema, 9 -- Scored twice, and is more important than ever. Matching last season's performance levels -- and 23 league goal tally -- will be some task, but he'll need to if this Real Madrid team are to achieve anything.
FW Vinicius Junior, 8 -- Almost created a fourth goal for Rodrygo. Showed great pace bursting forward in added time, and scored with a rare header.
FW Rodrygo, 6 -- Just couldn't reach fellow substitute Vinicius' cross.
FW Marco Asensio, NR -- Came on for Modric.
MF Isco, NR -- Saw little of the ball.
FW Luka Jovic, NR -- Didn't have much time to make an impact.