Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez in rare start as Real Madrid are held
Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez started together for the first time in over two years yesterday morning (Singapore time), but Real Madrid were denied victory after a late equaliser by Real Valladolid.
Both players looked certain to leave Real this summer, but were included by coach Zinedine Zidane in a line-up that was without a single new signing for the second game in a row.
Instead, it was Karim Benzema who gave Los Blancos the lead in the 82nd minute, when he controlled a pass with his back to goal and swivelled before finishing into the far corner.
However, Valladolid grabbed a shock equaliser six minutes later with only their second shot on target when Sergi Guardiola struck through the legs of Thibaut Courtois to complete a swift counter-attack after midfielder Toni Kroos had surrendered possession.
The goal plunged a happy Santiago Bernabeu crowd into silence and left Real with four points after two games.
"I'm left with a bitter taste because we did the hardest thing, which was to score in a second half where we did not produce our best performance," said the 47-year-old Zidane.
"It's a bad feeling when you concede an equaliser so soon after scoring. We played well in the first half, but we were unable to find the net."
With Eden Hazard and Ferland Mendy both injured, Luka Jovic and Eder Militao on the bench and Rodrygo gaining experience in the B team, there was little to show for Real's 300 million euros (S$468m)spent.
Jovic came on and hit the crossbar, yet they were a side looking back not forwards, Rodriguez, 28, starting his first Real match since April 2017, alongside the 30-year-old Bale, whose reintegration continues after his impressive display in the previous weekend's 3-1 win over Celta Vigo.
Both were dynamic, the team's chief creators, and Zidane said he took Rodriguez off in the second half because he was feeling some discomfort.
"James played well, he came off as he had a little issue and we didn't want to take any risks," said the Frenchman.
"He played well, especially in the first half, just lacking a goal when he had the chance."
Real's lack of cutting edge in the final third, so often their undoing last season, was yesterday painfully evident again.
They had 22 shots, but only four on target and even fewer could be classed as clear opportunities. If club president Florentino Perez was watching, he may have concluded the club's pursuit of Neymar is worth accelerating. - AFP, REUTERS
OTHER SELECTED RESULTS:
Celta 1 Valencia 0, Getafe 1 Bilbao 1