Three things: Real Madrid 4-1 Getafe

Posted by Dermot Corrigan

MADRID -- Three observations from Real Madrid's 4-1 home win over Getafe on Sunday:

1. Illarra -- not Bale -- home debut

With Gareth Bale picking up a thigh strain in the warm-up, many eyes inside the Bernabeu during Sunday evening's win were on Real Madrid’s other home debutant, Asier Illarramendi. With both Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric missing, the 38 million-euro summer signing was given the midfield reins and impressed.

With midfield partner Sami Khedira as usual covering every blade of grass, Illarramendi stuck to the centre circle and tried to knit things together. After a hesitant opening in which Getafe scored on a break through his area, the ex-Real Sociedad man grew in confidence, showing an impressive range of long and short passing, while also looking alert to snuff out any rare opposition counters.

It was an encouraging display -- albeit against pretty mediocre opposition -- after a rough first outing in the 2-2 draw at Villarreal last week. It was clear the home fans were keen for him to do well -- with loud applause even for an ambitious ball to Ronaldo which was overhit in the first half. Ancelotti will still want Alonso back as soon as possible for the deep midfield "pivote" position, but Illarra will have been happy with his showing.

2. Benzema still not clicking

If Madrid’s fans were willing to be generous to Illarramendi, they were less patient with Karim Benzema, who was again regularly whistled during another frustrating display.

Sometimes the Bernabeu seems unnecessarily harsh on the Frenchman, whose laid-back approach can be useful in big games, and who had four goals and two assists in his first five games this season. But there was plenty to grumble about in one of the Frenchman’s worst showings in his four and a bit seasons at Madrid.

The lowlights included two missed open goals -- one scuffed weakly in the first half, the other headed over, both from inside the 6-yard box. A series of underhit passes or slight miscontrols early in the second half brought more groans from the home fans.

The more "demanding" Ultras Sur began chanting the name of youngster Alvaro Morata after just 51 minutes. Then there was something almost patronising about the loud applause which a down-looking Benzema got from other fans, and his teammates, as he was put out of his misery with Morata entering with 10 minutes remaining.

The idea behind selling Gonzalo Higuain last summer, and having just 20-year-old Morata as backup No. 9, was that Benzema would benefit from not having to compete with another senior striker. This is not happening. Madrid president Florentino Perez has ruled out signing another forward in January, but might be tempted to think again.

3. Ronaldo still chasing

Not really something we "learned," but Cristiano Ronaldo remains as hungry for goals and records as ever. Since last week, when he signed his new contract worth a reported 20 million euros a year, Ronaldo has scored a hat trick in the 6-1 win at Galatasaray midweek and then bagged two more Sunday -- a first-half penalty and then a lovely injury-time back heel. This brings the Portuguese attacker to 208 goals for Madrid -- and up to joint fifth on the club’s all-time list alongside 1980s legend Hugo Sanchez.

And Cristiano has reached 208 in just 205 games, 78 fewer than Sanchez took when he was scoring at what looked then an unbeatable rate in the 1980s. Next in Ronaldo’s sights are Ferenc Puskas (242), Santillana (290), Alfredo di Stefano (307) and Raul Gonzalez, whose 323 goals came in 741 games over 16 years.

Ronaldo’s new contract takes him to 2018 at the Bernabeu, but at his current rate of more than a goal a game, he should be Madrid’s all-time top scorer at some point during the 2015-16 season -- just his seventh at the club.


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