Madrid make winning CL start

Real Madrid have begun the defence of their Champions League crown with a commanding win over Basel.

The scoreline may be emphatic and the attacking play was at times impressive, but Madrid’s defending left a lot to be desired and a stronger team may have taken advantage.

A Marek Suchy own goal opened the scoring and Madrid’s lead was hardly threatened before goals in quick succession from Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo confirmed the holders’ dominance.

James Rodriguez claimed a fourth after Karim Benzema’s deflected shot was saved but Basel got one back before half time, Derlis Gonzalez finding the freedom of the pitch after taking advantage of Madrid’s high line.

Madrid were undone more than once in the second half but Karim Benzema added to the win with a fifth goal after linking up with Ronaldo and hammering into the net, via the crossbar.

Carlo Ancelotti made two changes from the side that lost to Atletico Madrid at the weekend, replacing full-backs Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Coentrao with Nacho and Marcelo.

Basel Coach Paulo Sousa named former Madrid defender Walter Samuel as one of three centre-backs and experienced striker Marco Streller leading the line.

A mis-hit by Pepe, taking a huge divot out the pitch, caused more trouble for the groundsman than Basel goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik as Madrid started on the front foot.

The home side’s probing was rewarded when James played in Nacho and the defender’s cross was diverted past Vaclik by Suchy.

Basel almost found an immediate reply but it wasn’t long before Madrid doubled their lead and the second goal did was soon followed by the third. A sumptuous Modric pass released Bale, who lobbed the goalkeeper before knocking the ball into the empty net.

Bale turned provider moments later, his low cross tapped in by Ronaldo, who is now three goals off the all-time Champions League goals record, held by Raul.

James piled on just a few minutes later but Madrid’s clean sheet was sullied by Gonzalez, who sprung a dozy Madrid defence on the half-way line and slotted past Iker Casillas.

Basel engineered a three-on-two to start the second half but couldn’t make the most of it, though they did look more composed on the ball after the break.

The visitors, despite some unconvincing defending from Madrid, struggled to find a second goal that would have put them back in the tie.

Madrid’s clearest second half openings came from close-range free kicks, but Ronaldo put one into the wall and Sergio Ramos another into the stand.

When Basel did get a chance it was through a Raphael Varane error, Gonzalez latching on to the substitute’s misplaced header. Casillas, jeered on Saturday but largely cheered tonight, made a good save.

A delightful James ball played in Bale but the goalkeeper snuffed out the shot, a rare chance as Madrid lacked the urgency of the first half.

It was Basel doing the running as the game entered its closing stages, a Fabian Schar drive hitting the post.

Benzema’s goal, after an exchange of one-touch passes with Ronaldo, gave the France international a much-needed confidence boost and put a gloss on a result that, though welcome, saw some of the team’s problems exposed.

Real Madrid 5-1 Basel

Suchy og 15, Bale 30, Ronaldo 31, James 37, Benzema 80 (RM), Gonzalez 38 (B)

Real Madrid: Casillas; Nacho, Ramos (Varane 66), Pepe, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric (Illarramendi 72), James; Bale, Benzema (Hernandez 82), Ronaldo

Basel: Vaclik; Xhaka, Suchy, Samuel (Kakitani 64), Schar, Safari; Frei (Delgado 83), Elneny, Zuffi; Gonzalez, Streller (Ebolo 72)

Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN)

Tags Basel
La Liga - Club News