Reigning European champions Real Madrid got their UEFA Champions League title defence off to a roaring start with a 3-0 victory over AS Roma in Group G action on Wednesday night at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.
An impeccable free-kick from Isco moments before the half-time whistle gave Real a 1-0 lead, and it was soon doubled in the 57th minute by Gareth Bale. Mariano then capped off the festivities with a right-footed rocket in second-half stoppage time to earn Los Blancos all three points.
It was business as usual at the Bernabeu. Real were the superior side throughout and at times played some breathtaking football that had Roma on their heels. The Italians weren’t without their looks at goal, but solid goalkeeping from Keylor Navas resulted in a fruitless night for the Italians.
Navas enjoyed a return to manager Julen Lopetegui’s starting XI, as did Isco and Casemiro in midfield, meaning Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema formed a two-man forward line, while Marco Asensio started on the bench.
Real issued an early warning as Toni Kroos and Bale hooked up on a chance only to see the latter fire just wide. Moments later it was Luka Modric slipping in a pass to Isco, but his shot was snuffed out by Roma goalkeeper Robin Olsen.
The Blanco bombardment showed no signs of let-up and you would be hard-pressed to recall a spell when Roma had the ball for longer than 10 seconds. Despite the one-way traffic, the home side were unable to break through. Sergio Ramos was next to almost break the deadlock but again Olsen was alert and push the defender’s header over the crossbar.
Just when it looked like Roma would get to the half-time dressing room without conceding, a marvelous free kick from Isco changed everything and gave Real a 1-0 lead. Isco was brought down by Daniele De Rossi just outside the area, and took full advantage of the dead ball by softly curling in a free-kick that Olsen did not even bother trying to save.
Roma started the second-half in strong fashion and Cengiz Under came within inches of pulling the Italians level, however Navas reminded everyone of his class with a fingertip save. Back came Real on the counterattack, and with some better finishing Bale would have had Real’s second. That was followed moments later by a Bale shot that deflected off the crossbar and out.
Bale’s wayward finishing from earlier was forgotten in an instant, as the former Tottenham man collected a perfectly weighted pass from Modric and polished off a counter-attack with a left-footer that went blazing past Olsen and inside the far post to make it 2-0 to Los Blancos.
Lopetegui brought on some fresh legs to put the nail in the Roma coffin with Asensio and Mariano coming on for Karim Benzema and Bale, respectively. Asensio almost pulled off the goal of the season thus far by taking an Isco pass and spinning past two Roma defenders, but Olsen’s kick-save denied the magical moment.
Mariano would not be denied though, as the Dominican-born striker collected a ball on the left edge of the area and absolutely hammered a right-footed shot into the top right corner of the net in stoppage time to complete the 3-0 scoreline.
3.- Real Madrid: Keylor; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric (Ceballos, min. 85), Isco; Bale (Mariano, min. 73), Benzema (Asensio, min. 62).
0.- AS Roma: Olsen; Florenzi, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; Zaniolo (Pellegrini, min. 54), N’Zonzi (Schick, min. 69), De Rossi; El Shaarawy (Perotti, min. 62), Dzeko, Cengiz.
Goals: 1-0, min. 45: Isco; 2-0, min. 58: Bale; 3-0, min. 92: Mariano.
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands).
Yellow cards: Ramos (Min. 23) for Real Madrid, De Rossi (Min. 44) for AS Roma, Dzeko (Min. 76) for AS Roma.
Red cards: None.
Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu.