Real Madrid got their second-straight narrow victory to begin their La Liga campaign as they beat Granada 1-0 at Los Carmenes. Karim Benzema scored in the unconvincing 2-1 over Real Betis last week and the France striker pounced again on Monday to get the only goal of the match after just 10 minutes. In what was far from a memorable encounter, Madrid were unable to add to their lead, but manager Carlo Ancelotti will be relieved to make it six points out of six at a venue where his side suffered defeat last campaign.
Ancelotti’s teamsheet again caused a stir with Diego Lopez being chosen in preference to Iker Casillas. It had been an attacking lineup selected with the new Madrid boss electing for a central midfield of Luka Modric and Isco in the absence of the injured Sami Khedira. That meant a place for Angel di Maria and the winger played a big role in a goal for another man who has been linked with a move away from the Bernabeu in the closing weeks of the transfer window.
Benzema had already missed a clear chance off of a Di Maria pass when he dinked over Granada keeper Roberto but wide of the post after just four minutes. But six minutes later he found the target. Di Maria’s in-swinging cross from the right found Cristiano Ronaldo criminally unattended at the far post, yet the Portuguese forward’s touch was unusually heavy, and instead the chance was snapped up by Benzema as he slid in to finish left-footed.
At the other end, Diego Lopez was forced into work when Youssef El-Arabi got played in behind the Madrid defense but the forward failed to take advantage and shot straight at Madrid’s keeper as Alvaro Arbeloa got back at him.
Isco, who scored on his debut last week, came closest to adding to Madrid’s lead after the break. The big-money arrival from Malaga showed his ability as he tricked his way past a defender and into the penalty area down the left, but his curled effort struck the outside of the near post.
Ronaldo didn’t have his usual sharpness as he fired wide of the target, but by the end Madrid can perhaps count themselves fortunate to have emerged with the win. With just over five minutes remaining, Diego Buonanotte got past Casemiro and into the penalty area before appearing to be taken down as the Madrid substitute stretched a leg across from behind. The Granada midfielder did appear to make the most of the limited contact but Madrid will doubtless have been relieved, although with the knowledge that improvement is necessary if they are to dethrone Barcelona.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.