Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale Score in Real Madrid Win vs. AC Milan in Friendly

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2018

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, right, celebrates after scoring their side's first goal against AC Milan during the Santiago Bernabeu trophy soccer match between Real Madrid and AC Milan at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, in Madrid, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrea Comas)
Andrea Comas/Associated Press

Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale both scored to help Real Madrid beat AC Milan 3-1 in the 2018 Trofeo Santiago Bernabeu friendly on Saturday.

Benzema opened the scoring in the Spanish capital, but he found his quick goal soon answered by former Real striker Gonzalo Higuain. Bale restored Los Blancos' lead in first-half stoppage time, while Borja Mayoral added a third late on after tapping in a rebound from a Luka Modric shot.

                

Benzema and Bale Capable of Filling Cristiano Ronaldo's Shoes

Seeing club-record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo leave for Juventus this summer will naturally have left many Real fans worried about the squad's attacking options. Any such worries will have been at least partly dispelled by how well Benzema and Bale played on Saturday.

The pair routinely exposed the Milan defence, getting in behind with pace and intelligence.

Bale, in particular, stood out thanks in large part to his potent combination with full-back Dani Carvajal on the right flank. The deadly double act combined brilliantly to tee up Benzema for the opener.

Real Madrid's Twitter account shared footage of the goal:

Bale added one of his own during first-half stoppage time:

The deft finish continued a fine scoring run for the Wales international this summer:

Real should feel confident the man who arrived for a then-world-record £85.3 million fee back in 2013 can fill Ronaldo's shoes. Bale has the talent and sense of occasion—proved when he bagged a brace to help Madrid beat Liverpool in May's UEFA Champions League final—to carry the scoring load post-Ronaldo.

Staying fit will be crucial for Bale. If he does, the former Tottenham Hotspur star can count on Benzema to help him shoulder a greater burden. It will have pleased manager Julen Lopetegui to see both strikers regularly trying to connect.

Benzema may have had a second when another slick exchange between Carvajal and Bale allowed the former to whip a low cross just out of reach of the Frenchman's boot early in the second half.

On this evidence, Bale and Benzema will ensure Real remain prolific going forward even without Ronaldo.

              

Higuain Loan Deal Will Prove a Masterstroke for Milan

Milan general manager Leonardo has been working hard to reshape the squad this summer. Yet for all the moves he's made, the decision to secure a loan deal for Higuain will prove to be his best.

Taking the powerhouse centre-forward from Serie A rivals Juventus for a season at a cost of £16.3 million already looks like money well spent. Higuain showed Milan fans what the club got for its outlay when he thundered in a sweet strike from distance to cancel out Benzema's opener on four minutes.

It was a finish typical of a striker who has thrived at the highest level for years. In Higuain, manager Gennaro Gattuso has the natural attacking talisman his squad missed last season:

Milan also have a finisher with the pedigree to dominate against Serie A defences:

To get all of those things on loan with an option to buy from a rival has to be one of this summer's best examples of shrewd business in the transfer market.

              

Losing Modric Would be Fatal for Julen Lopetegui's Plans

Conflicting reports about Luka Modric's future should worry Lopetegui. The Spaniard needs the Croatia international running the midfield to make his possession-based brand of football work.

The 32-year-old is "determined" to move to Inter Milan, according to Sky in Italy (h/t Sky Sports). However, Tomas Roncero of AS believes Modric will elect to stay in the Spanish capital.

It was only a short cameo, but Modric underlined his worth to Los Merengues as a second-half substitute against Milan. In typical fashion, the playmaker serenely moved into pockets of space and kept possession in Real's favour with simple passes to the player in the best position.

Modric staying is vital for Real.
Modric staying is vital for Real.GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images

This simple yet highly effective way to travel is essential to the pass-heavy way Lopetegui will likely want Real to approach the new season. He had Spain operate the same way and could build a similar framework with the European champions around Modric.

The latter has been a steady conductor and supporting player for Ronaldo in recent seasons. Yet he can become a star turn as the focal point of post-CR7 Real if he resists advances from Inter.

                

What's Next?

A friendly against this level of opposition is ideal preparation for a Real side next in action against 2017/18 UEFA Europa League winners Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday.

The Rossoneri still have work to do but can at least be encouraged by Higuain's early form as they get ready for their league opener against Genoa on August 19. He's a good-enough player to finally elevate the club back into contention for major trophies.

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