Kroos cools Zidane’s hot seat

An early strike from Toni Kroos held up for Real Madrid, who downed Galatasaray 1-0 in Champions League Group A action on Tuesday night at the Turk Telecom Stadium in Instanbul, Turkey.

With the result, Los Blancos rose to second place in the group with three matchdays to play.

It was Real Madrid’s best outing of the young European season and, with some better finishing, the scoreline could have been much bigger.

But the big key was the play of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who made a number of fine saves, plus performance of the back four of Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal, a quartet that served as the anchor for so many of Real’s European conquests.

Maligned manager Zinedine Zidane made two notable inclusions in his starting XI, with Rodrygo called upon to offer punch in attack along with Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard, while Fede Valverde slotted into the midfield with Casemiro and Toni Kroos.

The first chances came for Galatasaray with Florin Andone getting two great cracks at goal, however there was no way past the much-criticised Courtois.

Galatasaray were left to rue their wastefulness, as Kroos struck to hand Real Madrid a lead.

Benzema filtered a pass to Hazard on the left flank and the Belgian played a cutback pass to the wide-open Kroos and it was an easy stroke into net for the German.

On the one time that Fede Valverde was beaten in the first half, Galatasaray got another scoring chance when a cross reached Belhanda in front of goal, but again Courtois came up big with the save.

Valverde was just as good at the other end and set up Benzema, only for the Frenchman to miss over the crossbar.

Those two nearly hooked up again at the start of the second half with Valverde surgically playing into Benzema, but the shot was parried out for a corner by Fernando Muslera.

The Valverde-Benzema combination was clicking and a third chance was created by those two, this time setting up Hazard on a silver platter with the goalmouth gaping wide open, but incredibly Hazard thumped his shot off the crossbar.

Real Madrid were dominating proceedings and had the bulk of chances, however it was still just a one-goal affair as time ticked into the final quarter of an hour.

Zidane went to his bench, replacing Hazard with Vinicius, while James came on for Valverde, followed by Luka Jovic for Rodrygo.

Galatasaray would get one final look at an equaliser with minutes remaining through a Steven N’Zonzi header only for the former Sevilla man to miss the target.

In the end, Real Madrid would see things out with no problem to secure a badly needed three points.