Gareth Bale’s double and superb Marco Asensio strike ensured Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence was not felt as Real Madrid began their 2016-17 LaLiga campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win at Real Sociedad.
The Portugal star is still struggling with the knee injury he suffered in the Euro 2016 final, but Bale netted inside two minutes to calm any early nerves and the away side rarely looked like dropping points thereafter.
Asensio doubled their lead with an exquisite finish just before the break on his league debut for the club, justifying Zinedine Zidane’s decision to start him ahead of James Rodriguez and Isco.
Toni Kroos went close to adding a third when his volley crashed against the crossbar in the second half – with the home side showing no indication of salvaging a result – and Bale rounded the keeper to wrap up the victory in stoppage-time.
Madrid had opted to sit back for much of the second half and looked a potent threat on the break, and although appearing to be playing within themselves, their triumph was a straightforward one.
Zidane’s side began with great intent and had their first goal almost immediately, as Bale showcased his aerial prowess to send a powerful header beyond Geronimo Rulli from Dani Carvajal’s cross.
The home side did not produce much of a response and almost found themselves two behind midway through the first half, but on this occasion Rulli got down to his right and brilliantly kept out Kroos’ 20-yard strike.
Sociedad did improve, however, and they should have equalised, only for David Zurutuza to inexplicably miscue a pass across the face of goal, robbing Juanmi of what would have been a simple tap-in.
That wasted opportunity proved costly five minutes before the break when Asensio latched on to a lofted Raphael Varane pass and showed exceptional composure to lift a clever lob over the approaching Rulli.
Alvaro Morata started the second half like he had a point to prove and felt aggrieved to be given a yellow card for simulation instead of a penalty when appearing to be caught in the area by Inigo Martinez.
The striker was in the thick of it again shortly after, running at the defence before seeing his blocked shot fall kindly for Kroos, who struck against the bar from just inside the area.
Sociedad did finally craft a chance in the closing stages, but Marcelo got back brilliantly to produce a perfectly timed last-ditch tackle on Mikel Oyarzabal.
A feisty encounter eventually reached boiling point when a scuffle saw Sergio Ramos – who along with Varane had comfortably kept the hosts at bay – and Yuri pick up yellow cards.
Madrid then put the result firmly beyond their hosts in the fourth minute of added time – Bale racing beyond the defence after James’ pass and coolly rounding Rulli to tap in his second as he started the season in lethal fashion.
Key Opta Stats:
– Real Madrid have won their last 13 LaLiga games, their second best run in the competition (15 in 1961).
– Gareth Bale scored his fastest goal for Real Madrid (1 minute and 12 seconds, all competitions).
– Marco Asensio has scored two goals in his first two games for Real Madrid from only three shots attempted.
– Bale has scored more headers than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues since last season (10).
– Only Miguel Munoz (15) recorded a longest winning streak as Real Madrid manager in LaLiga than Zinedine Zidane (13).
– Real Madrid did not concede a single shot on target against Real Sociedad – the last time was in the first matchday of last season (all comps).