Bellingham strikes on debut as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao

AFP , Sunday 13 Aug 2023

Jude Bellingham scored on his triumphant Real Madrid debut in a 2-0 win at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday in their opening La Liga match.

Jude Bellingham
Athletic Bilbao s Spanish forward #10 Iker Muniain vies with Real Madrid s English midfielder #05 Bellingham during the Spanish Liga football match between Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao on August 12, 2023. Photo: AFP


Despite concerns at both ends of the pitch, Carlo Ancelotti's side earned a convincing victory at the San Mames to kick off their title bid, with Rodrygo Goes opening the scoring.

Madrid, who lost Ballon d'Or holder Karim Benzema to big-money Saudi football in the summer, are still heavily linked to Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe as a replacement, as the transfer saga drags on.

Brazilian duo Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo worked well as a strike duo, with Bellingham in the No 10 role at the tip of a diamond midfield offering ample support.

Los Blancos goalkeeper Andriy Lunin started in place of regular stopper Thibaut Courtois, who is set to miss the majority of the season with a cruciate ligament injury.

The Ukrainian was solid, although he may soon be behind Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in the pecking order, with the Spaniard set to join on loan according to various reports.

Ancelotti, who will take over the Brazilian national team at the end of this campaign, handed defender Fran Garcia his second Madrid debut after his return from Rayo Vallecano.

However it was Bellingham's name that stood out and the 20-year-old demonstrated why Madrid paid over 100 million euros ($110 million) for him.

Madrid took the lead before the half-hour mark when Dani Carvajal hooked the ball back to Rodrygo, who slotted past Unai Simon at his near post.

The goalkeeper managed to force David Alaba's header onto the post and thwarted Vinicius after he burst into the box, but Bellingham soon added Madrid's second.

The England international netted in unorthodox fashion, volleying Alaba's corner into the ground and over Simon.

Bellingham stood still, facing the home fans with arms wide in celebration, as if announcing his arrival to La Liga -- drawing a rebuke from Athletic captain Iker Muniain.

The midfielder nearly carved out another for Rodrygo with an inviting cross, but the Brazilian narrowly failed to make contact with an attempted bicycle kick.

Former Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde made a triple change at half-time to try and pull Athletic back into the game.

Madrid were forced into a change themselves early in the second half when Eder Militao hurt his knee and was replaced by Antonio Rudiger.

Bellingham continued to impress in the second half, bursting forward from deep into dangerous territory, but the move eventually broke down.

Wearing former Madrid midfielder Zinedine Zidane's number five, the former Birmingham City man started as he means to go on.

Vinicius, making his first away appearance in La Liga since being racially abused by Valencia fans in May, was occasionally whistled by Athletic supporters.

The forward made way in the final stages for another debutant, Joselu, whom Madrid loaned from relegated Espanyol, as Los Blancos saw out their opening weekend win with ease.

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