Luka Modric scored his latest stunning goal to help Real Madrid to an eventually comfortable 4-1 victory at Celta Vigo on Saturday and make it two wins out of two for the champions to start the new LaLiga season.
After the two teams exchanged early goals from the penalty spot, courtesy of Karim Benzema and Iago Aspas, Modric took control. Three minutes before half-time, the 36-year-old gave Madrid the crucial lead to go into the interval with an unstoppable curling strike from 20 yards.
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Madrid then struck twice on the break in the second half through Vinicius Jr. and Federico Valverde to make the three points secure. The scoreline could have been even more emphatic for the visitors but substitute Eden Hazard, charitably given the responsibility by Benzema, had a late penalty saved.
“We are happy. We played well,” Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti said afterward. “We had good individual performances from players who haven’t played a lot, they’re new. Tchouameni played really well, and Camavinga. We showed a lot of energy on the pitch and the performance was good, we are confident in the future for sure.
“We have players who can play in different positions, it helps the team. I think the squad we have is a really good squad, I have no doubts about that.”
Before Modric’s intervention, Madrid were stuck in a real tussle with their opponents, just as they were in a narrow 2-1 win against Almeria in their LaLiga opener a week ago.
Playing their first game without Manchester United-bound Casemiro, Ancelotti started with Aurelien Tchouameni in a midfield three alongside Modric and Eduardo Camavinga.
And Tchouameni had a significant involvement early on. It was the summer signing’s header that found David Alaba in front of goal before the defender’s shot was clearly blocked by the arm of Celta Vigo’s Renato Tapia. While the referee didn’t see it in real time, after a check from VAR it was a simple decision to point to the penalty spot.
Benzema sent Celta goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin the wrong way to get his first goal of the season with 14 minutes on the clock.
But less than 10 minutes later, the scores were level. This time it was Eder Militao whose arm was in the wrong place at the wrong time to block a header from Goncalo Paciencia and give the officials another simple job to award a penalty. Aspas followed Benzema’s lead with a decisive strike from the spot.
It was Modric’s goal that the game will be most remembered for, though. The Croatian showed his enduring brilliance, gliding by a challenge before effortlessly dispatching the ball into the top corner of the net.
“He’s immortal. Luka is always ready, he’s always prepared, he always plays well.” Ancelotti added of Modric. “The goal he scored changed the game. Until the goal the game was even, competitive, Celta pressed us well, it was hard for us in possession. In the second half they dropped their intensity, and we played the ball out well from the back and our transitions were spectacular.”
Paciencia went close with a low strike across goal at the start of the second half as Celta sought to get back on level terms. But when Modric found Vinicius clear through the middle and the Brazilian rounded the keeper before sliding home the contest was effectively ended.
Valverde wrapped up the scoring, allowing Modric to sit out the final minutes on the bench after receiving a standing ovation from all four corners of the Balaidos.
“It’s a beautiful thing, it makes me very happy when the fans recognise your work, I can only thank them,” Modric said.
As for the loss of Casemiro, who is due to have a farewell in Madrid on Monday before sealing his move to Old Trafford, Modric added: “It’s a shame, we made history with him and he was fundamental. We’ll miss him a lot as a person and as a player, and I’m sad to see him go. But it’s a part of football and we have to carry on without him.”
Information from ESPN’s Alex Kirkland was used in this report.