Real Madrid overcame an impressive Celtic performance to start the defence of their Champions League crown with an eventually comfortable 3-0 victory at Celtic Park, Glasgow, on Tuesday.
Following several close calls for Celtic, Madrid punished their opponents by scoring three goals in the second half of the Group F match through Vinicius Junior, Luka Modric, and Eden Hazard.
Eden Hazard who was brought on for skipper Karim Benzema in the 30 minute hit the ground running with an impressive display, one we have not seen in a long while from the Belgian. The introduction of Eden Hazard meant he had to take up the role left void by Benzema as the leading striker and in a fine display, Hazard proved many doubters wrong.
The absence of Benzema through injury wasn’t the only issue for Madrid in the first 45 minutes, which were filled with action in front of a boisterous home crowd.
Celtic gave Madrid all they could handle as the visitors were unable to match the intensity of the Scottish champions’ pressings and quick counterattacks.
“We didn’t expect an easy game at all, they won 4-0 against Rangers, the Europa League finalist, over the weekend. They are at a great moment as a team,” Toni Kroos told Movistar Plus.
“We needed to be patient, keep calm and wait for the right opportunities to come. Our experience played a major role.”
Callum McGregor, Matt O’Riley, and the razor-sharp Reo Hatate arguably outperformed Kroos, Luka Modric, and £72m Aurelien Tchouameni in the first 45 minutes, outperforming their elite-level rivals. McGregor even had a fantastic corner kick that hit the post when the score was 0-0.
Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart, unsurprisingly was seen to be a spectator until Vinicius Jr. – the man who scored the game-winning goal against Liverpool in the May final, broke Celtic’s defense just before the hour mark.
As the half progressed, Madrid also had chances. Hazard, who replaced Benzema, should have done better after he missed a shot that went wide before also setting up Vinicius Jr. for a shot that was well blocked by Celtic goalie Joe Hart.
The home team were soon made to pay when Federico Valverde put in an inviting low cross from the right and Vinicius arrived at the back post for a composed finish.
The lead was doubled four minutes later. Hazard showed glimpses of his best displays with a run through midfield before finding Modric, who stepped inside a defender and poked the ball past Hart.
He then got himself on the scoresheet with 13 minutes remaining as Celtic’s resistance faded and the Belgian was given the simple task to tap home from Dani Carvajal’s cut-back cross.
For their upcoming match against Leipzig, Real Madrid will be hoping to build on this and focus on defending their Champions League title.