Real Madrid opened their Liga campaign with a workmanlike 2-0 win over Cordoba at the Santiago Bernabeu on Monday.
Newcomers to the Spanish top-flight Cordoba were expected to be easy meat for Real’s superstars, and that seemed likely when Karim Benzema opened the scoring.
But Cordoba kept their shape, carried a threat going forward, and forced Real to graft. And it was not until injury time that the points were sealed when Cristiano Ronaldo rifled home from long rage.
The first glimpse of Real’s major summer signing James Rodriguez came on five minutes with a dinked pass over the top, but it had a shade too much pace for Ronaldo to gather in.
Ronaldo had appeals for a penalty waved away on six minutes. The Portugal superstar got the wrong side of his marker and looked like he could reach a Marcelo cross, only to tumble to the floor. Replays suggested there was contact, but not enough in the official’s mind to warrant a penalty.
Seen em given... especially here...— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) August 25, 2014
Cordoba’s first shot since their return to the top flight went within inches of finding the target, as Mike Havenaar’s drive from the edge of the box flashed across the face of goal.
It appears set-piece play was worked on during Real Madrid training, as a clever move involving Luka Modric and Ronaldo—the former delivering a low pass across the box to the latter—forced a decent save out of Juan Carlos.
Another Real new boy, Toni Kroos, fashioned the opening goal of the season on 30 minutes. An outswinging corner was delivered into the perfect area in the box and Benzema rose high to power a header in off the left post.
For all Real's pressure, they found it tough to deal the knockot blow to Cordoba.
Juan Carlos: Cordoba’s goalkeeper had more touches (29) than any of his teammates in the first half against Real Madrid— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) August 25, 2014
Havenaar carried a threat throughout and he came close to equalising on the stroke of half time, but he failed to direct his header on target.
Real keeper Iker Casillas was forced into action at the start of the second half. A jinking run and low shot from Santos Matos was heading for the bottom corner, but Casillas got down to make the save.
The strong hands of Juan Carlos kept Cordoba in the game on the hour mark, as James smashed a shot from eight yards. It was a crisp strike, but the keeper beat the ball to safety.
An assistant’s flag came to Real’s rescue on 70 minutes. Xisco was on hand to turn a rebound into the net after Casillas had made a smart save from Fidel, but his celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.
Ronaldo was also denied a goal by a flag, but he was not to be denied in injury time as he picked up the ball 35 yards out and advanced before firing a low shot into the corner.
Cristiano Ronaldo: B-
The world footballer of the year appeared to be operating at half pace, with his ongoing knee problem possibly restricting him. Injured or not, the quality is still there—as displayed by a great cross for Gareth Bale in the final 10 minutes—and a brilliant long-range strike that sealed the win.
James Rodriguez: C+
Much is expected of the Colombian following his big-money move. There were bright moments, particularly his excellent range of passing.
Sergio Ramos: B+
The defender is looking to bounce back after a poor World Cup, and on this display he looks sure to do so. He put in a superb, committed shift and won plenty of balls in the air.
Great to speak to Toni Kroos on his league debut. "I felt comfortable ...it's always important to start with a win" pic.twitter.com/wFGcij3Zzp— Phil Kitromilides (@PhilKitro) August 25, 2014