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Real Madrid Wins Again At The Santiago Bernabeu Thanks To Karim Benzema's Hat-Trick

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Monday, 13th September 2021

After 560 days away, Real Madrid returned to the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday, and Karim Benzema ensured it was a happy homecoming with a hat-trick that inspired a thrilling 5-2 comeback against Celta Vigo. Benzema had to equalise twice after Santi Mina and Franco Cervi put Celta ahead, goals that drew whistles inside the Bernabeu, where 19,874 fans turned out for the first time in a year and a half. But Benzema kept his team in the game, and Madrid dominated the second half, with Vinicius Junior scoring after racing onto the France forward's through-ball, and Eduardo Camavinga making his debut by tapping into an open net.

Benzema completed his hat-trick in the 87th minute, giving him five goals and two assists in his first four games of the season.

"The team has a lot of offensive quality, that's clear," coach Carlo Ancelotti said.

"What was less clear was the defensive organisation, which needs to be improved."

Antoine Griezmann's return was less impressive, with his first game for Atletico Madrid in two years and four months coming against Espanyol, who were defeated 2-1 in the 99th minute by Thomas Lemar. Griezmann was substituted in the 58th minute, with his team trailing.

Griezmann appeared for Barcelona in Real Madrid's final match at the Bernabeu on March 1, 2020, a 2-0 home win in which Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, and Raphael Varane also appeared, with Zinedine Zidane and Quique Setien in the dugouts.

If the talent drain since has been a disappointment for La Liga, it may at least provide Benzema with a brief moment in the spotlight. The 34-year-old is without a doubt Madrid's best hope of reclaiming the title this season.

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There was certainly a warm glow inside the Bernabeu at the end, a sense of relief after spending so much time playing at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium, a move prompted by the pandemic's ban on fans and aimed at accelerating the 575 million-euro renovation work at their 81,000-capacity home.

The project is not expected to be completed until the end of next year, but with the Spanish government allowing a limited number of supporters back, the club has reopened its doors.

Santi Mina was the last opponent to score at the Bernabeu before it closed and the first after it reopened, capitalising on a sloppy Miguel Gutierrez pass early on to put Celta ahead.

Benzema levelled after Fede Valverde cushioned back to him in the box, but Celta struck again, with Cervi flicking in after the ball cannoned off the post to expose Madrid's defensive flaws once more.

But Benzema guided in an expert header shortly after halftime, and Madrid never looked back, Vinicius and then Benzema's penalty sealing a convincing win, either side of Camavinga's debut goal.

The 18-year-old, who joined from Rennes for 40 million euros, wowed the crowd with some quick feet right away before tapping into an open net after a weaving run from Luka Modric.

Atletico's comeback against Espanyol was less comfortable, as they needed 10 minutes of extra time and a 99th-minute goal from Lemar to win.

Griezmann was replaced in the 58th minute by Joao Felix, an underwhelming return for the Frenchman symptomatic of a sluggish Atletico, which only came to life late in the game.

"He was good in the first half when we were not," said coach Diego Simeone.

"We didn't generate enough speed, and Espanyol played much better; they were more dynamic, intense, and stronger, and they hurt us."

Yannick Carrasco provided the spark, scoring with 11 minutes remaining in regulation time before Lemar surged through midfield and finished.

Atletico maintains their unbeaten start, while Espanyol is still looking for their first win since returning to La Liga after a year in Segunda.

Valencia are level on 10 points with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid after a 4-1 win away at Osasuna under new coach Jose Bordelas.


The News Talkie Bureau





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