Dani Carvajal celebrates Real Madrid’s first La Liga goal of the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era. (Getty)
Real Madrid opened up a new era – or rather two new eras – at the Santiago Bernabeu with a relatively uneventful 2-0 win over Getafe.
In one sense, “uneventful” equaled uninspiring and unconvincing. Real wasn’t very inventive in the final third. Its goals – Dani Carvajal’s header of a keeper’s week punch, and Gareth Bale’s finish of a deflected cross – were somewhat scruffy. Its creators didn’t create much.
But after last season, “uneventful” might just be a breath of fresh air. Madrid’s early-season 2016-17 tailspin featured a collection of wild games. Real, over 38 matches, conceded 44 goals, its most porous campaign of the decade.
On Sunday, it conceded just a single late shot on target. It was businesslike and secure.
Julen Lopetegui’s influence
One of the new eras is that of Julen Lopetegui, and the former Spanish national team head coach seems to have brought a very La Roja-esque type of control to Madrid. Real suppressed Getafe’s attack by keeping the ball, to the tune of 78 percent possession. It pressed higher than Zinedine Zidane’s Real did.
In fact, the second goal stemmed from Marco Asensio’s long run to close down a Getafe center back.
Those trends – more possession, fewer chances; more secure, less potent – are probably signs of things to come – especially with Cristiano Ronaldo off in Turin.
Real Madrid without Ronaldo
The big question in Madrid, of course, is how Real will replace Ronaldo. Sunday didn’t really provide any answers. One more than a few occasions, Asensio or Isco progressed into the final third, only to find themselves lacking options in the penalty box.
Bale supported Benzema pretty well, and made a Ronaldo-esque dart to the near post in the first half, only to see his header rattle the crossbar. But at times, Real seemed bereft of that attacking focal point that Ronaldo so consistently was.
In the end, though, there is very little to take away from Real’s win, other than that it puts Los Blancos level with Barcelona (and others) atop La Liga after one week. They were without Luka Modric, Casemiro and Raphael Varane from the start. They were also up against a sound defensive unit, but a relatively tame attacking one.
There will be tougher tests and different types of tests. Given the tumult of last season, Sunday’s victory was a positive start to both the Lopetegui era and the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era. But a start is all it was.
– – – – – – –
Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.
More soccer on Yahoo Sports:
• Short offseasons, overworked players … welcome to soccer’s unsolvable dilemma
• La Liga games are coming to the U.S. … or are they?
• Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal was equal parts frantic, shambolic and superb
• La Liga preview: Who’s favored in three-time title bout?