Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid showed few signs of their early season problems and dealt comfortably with a so called injury crisis to notch a comfortable 2-0 win against visitors Celta Vigo at the Santiago Bernabeu, courtesy of goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Higuain put the home side ahead when he sprang forward down the left wing in the 11th minute to loop a cross-shot over the head of stranded Celta goalkeeper Sergio. Higuain’s manager Mourinho certainly didn’t think the forward had intended to score as he chuckled and shrugged nonchalantly on the sideline.
After the break Madrid turned up the pressure and added a further goal in the 67th minute when Celta’s Argentine defender Gustavo Cabral floored German international star Mesut Ozil in the box for a clear penalty and Ronaldo sealed the win with the spot kick.
The result maintained the champions’ strong home form in La Liga, as they are now on a 16-game unbeaten league run at the Bernabeu, having won 13 and drawn three of their last 16 home matches.
But the win also ended Celta Vigo’s good run of results on this ground as the visitors had not tasted defeat at Real Madrid since a 4-2 setback in February 2004.
Indeed Madrid dominated possession throughout the first half and visiting goalkeeper Sergio was the busiest man on the pitch as Kaka, Ozil, Ronaldo, Higuain, Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso formed a potent attacking force and drove forward in waves. Higuain alone could have had a hat-trick in the first 25 minutes but some wayward finishing and an alert performance from Sergio kept the visitors in it.
Celta’s Danish forward Michael Kronh-Delhi was dropping deep to support the midfield and defence, with the visiting side reduced to mounting counter attacks when possible, but unable to overly trouble Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas between the sticks.
Former Manchester United man Ronaldo was a constant threat, as he so often is, nicely bringing the likes of Alonso and Ozil into the attack as the half continued. One flashing Ronaldo cross from the right should have seen Sergio Ramos make it 2-0 before half-time but the centre half could not apply the finishing touch.
Kaka went off for Angel Di Maria at half time as Mourinho reshuffled his cards, but in truth his side were in control throughout as they toyed with the Celta Vigo defence at will.
A second goal was always likely and just over 20 minutes into the second period it arrived as Ronaldo sealed the three points with a well taken penalty. Referee Clos Gomez had no option but to award the spot kick as Cabral put Ozil on the deck as the German pushed towards goal on the left – then it was over to Ronaldo to routinely swipe the ball past Sergio.
Celta manager Paco Herrera, a proud Catalan from Barcelona who has overseen victories on this ground before, was unable to mastermind another Madrid defeat and his side went home empty handed much to his frustration as he gesticulated throughout from the technical area.
Now thoughts for Real Madrid turn to Germany, where they travel midweek to face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. Mourinho will be without several first choice defenders again but on this showing his squad’s depth should stand up to the challenge of the German champions.