Gareth Bale Leads Real Madrid in Dominant 3-0 Champions League Win vs. AS Roma

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2018

Real Madrid's Welsh forward Gareth Bale (C) celebrates scoring his team's second goal with teammates during the UEFA Champions League group G football match between Real Madrid CF and AS Roma at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on September 19, 2018. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images

Real Madrid eased to a 3-0 win over Roma at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday to get their UEFA Champions League title defence off to a comfortable start.

Isco opened the scoring in the one-sided affair with a sublime free-kick in the 45th minute, before Gareth Bale added a second in the 58th.

In the 91st minute, substitute Mariano Diaz curled in from the edge of the area to seal three points for Madrid.

                                    

Real Madrid Don't Need Cristiano Ronaldo to Be UCL Contenders

After selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus in the summer and failing to replace him, Real saw its chances of winning the Champions League for a fourth year running take a serious hit.

There's still a long way to go in the competition, but the early signs indicate that sentiment may have been wrong. It was a dominant performance from start to finish, and on another day, the hosts could have scored several more.

Madrid were relentless at times. First to every ball, they had Roma pinned back for much of the game, and it was all the Italian side could do not to concede.

WhoScored.com's Ben McAleer noted the pattern of play early on, and it remained the case for much of the contest:

Real, who had 17 attempts on goal in the first half, eventually took a deserved lead through Isco's sensational effort shortly before half-time:

Bale doubled their tally with a cool finish into the bottom corner after he latched onto Luka Modric's slide-rule pass before Diaz's late effort.

ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan believes the Welshman is flourishing at the Bernabeu:

Indeed, it seems Real's players are filling the gap Ronaldo left, perhaps freed up now that they can focus on operating as a team rather than tailoring their play to him.

Real will be keen to show they can challenge at the highest level without the star forward, and on Wednesday they took an encouraging step toward doing that.

                            

Roma Will Struggle to Replicate Last Year's Semi-Final Run

In contrast to McAleer, Football Italia's Richard Hall had a different take on the opening 20 minutes:

That is perhaps a generous assessment of the way it played out, though.

Going away to the three-time defending European champions was always going to be a difficult task for Roma. But after reaching the semi-finals of the competition last season—beating Barcelona along the way—the Giallorossi couldn't offer more of a challenge, which was disappointing.

Roma stood off Real for far too much of the contest, and when the likes of Isco and Modric are afforded so much time and space on the ball, the match will likely only end one way.

ESPN FC's Terry Daley noted how easy they made life for Madrid:

It's clear there's a gulf in quality between the sides, and it was significant here.

Roma should still be capable of escaping a group that also contains CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen, but they'll need to be much better than they were on Wednesday if they're to have an impact in the knockout phase again.

                          

What's Next

Real take on Espanyol at home on Saturday, while Roma travel to Bologna a day later. In the Champions League, Madrid will play CSKA Moscow in Russia in October, and the Italian side will host Viktoria Plzen.

                                         

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