Real Madrid registered a narrow 1-0 win over Bundesliga side Union Berlin in their opening game of this season’s UEFA Champions League.
Despite attempting a whopping 32 shots in the night, the record European champions had to rely on the 94th-minute goal by Jude Bellingham to get the win.
Bellingham scored the injury-time winner for Real Madrid for the second time in three games after having scored in the 95th minute against Getafe in La Liga.
Speaking after the game, Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti shed light on several aspects, including the game, the changes he made, Bellingham, Joselu, and Rodrygo among others.
“The match was planned like this. It was complicated, with a lot of control and Union Berlin defended very well in a low block. They did not leave us any space between the lines. We were very good in recovering after a loss and in the dead ball,” he was quoted by Real Madrid website.
“It is true that we could score earlier, but scoring in the last minute is important. The spirit of this shirt allows us to believe until the last minute. The team has stood up to the end.
“The idea was to be patient and we have been too patient. They are matches like that, which can be classified as traps. We have the memory of the game vs Sheriff. In this type of match, it is worthwhile to avoid cons. Rudiger’s game was outstanding and we did well at the back because we didn’t suffer,” he added.
What changed after the first half?
Ancelotti made two changes towards the hour mark against Union Berlin, which worked wonders for the team. Explaining what was the idea behind it, he said,
“We fixed some things at half-time. The second half is better for us because the opponent puts less pressure compared to the first.
“In the second half, the opponent’s energy drops a little and we have more space and opportunities. The good thing is that today we have not come back. Union Berlin is very strong in the aerial ball and the second ball and we have done very well there,” he said.
The almighty Bellingham
The manager also spoke about the impact Bellingham made in the game, adding that it’s not a coincidence that the midfielder is scoring clever goals this season.
“He has quality and it seems like luck. This goal is similar to Getafe’s, but you have to be there. Coming from the second line he is smarter than others. He has this quality and he is taking advantage of it. I have not challenged anyone for goals.”
The manager added that he thinks he has a competitive squad to go through the rest of the season.
“What I think today is what I thought before starting the competition. We have a competitive squad to fight for all competitions. If we had drawn, I wouldn’t have changed my idea of this squad: it has a lot of quality.”
On Joselu and Rodrygo
Ancelotti had some words reserved for Joselu and Rodrygo. The former has settled in well at Real Madrid, having scored two goals.
“He is doing very well and today he was able to score again. He helps us a lot with the ball into the area. It’s pretty obvious. In the aerial game, we are more powerful than before also with the arrival of Bellingham. He hit the post in the second half and in the first half he almost scored twice.”
On Rodrygo, the manager said, “These games are complicated for him because he is very good in the open field. In the last games, we have had more control, but limited spaces.
“In open space, he may have more opportunities. Today he had a bit of bad luck because on other occasions he would have scored.”
Star forward Vinicius Jr. continues to be absent for Real Madrid and when asked about an update, the manager said,
“He is one of the best forwards in the world. He makes the difference. Vinicius will be back next Wednesday. Let’s see if it makes it to Sunday.”
Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Brahim Diaz
While Luka Modric was named in the starting XI, Toni Kroos came from the bench minutes after the hour mark. When asked about the impact of the veteran duo, the manager said,
“They contribute a lot. It’s good to have very good midfield. I can’t think that a midfielder is on the bench for four or five games in a row. Each one can contribute, whether at the beginning or in the second part.
“It is not easy to understand for a player who is not going to start, but it is not so complicated to think that he is going to contribute in the second half with the rivals tired.”
About Brahim Diaz, he added, “He is one of the most affected players in this first part of the season, but every time he has gone out he has contributed. The idea is to give him more minutes.”
Lastly, the manager was also asked if he thinks Real Madrid are the favourites to lift the UEFA Champions League crown, to which he said,
“Saying that we are favourites doesn’t contribute anything. In every game, you have to fight and fight. Better to think about other things,” he concluded.
Real Madrid youngster in line for significant minutes against Granada – report
Nico Paz was long hyped as Real Madrid Castilla’s brightest upcoming star. The media constantly kept the spotlight on the young Argentine through pre-season as he made a strong impression under Carlo Ancelotti in preseason.
His breakthrough eventually arrived, courtesy of Real Madrid’s injury crisis. He has now made two appearances for the team in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League and even recorded his first goal for the club earlier this week against Napoli.
Taking his chances
As revealed by AS (h/t The Madrid Zone), Paz has impressed management with his cameo against Napoli and will be called up for Real Madrid’s clash against Granada tomorrow.
In fact, there is a good chance he sees significant game time on the night.
After all, Ancelotti is without the likes of Luka Modric, Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga in the middle of the park.
With Toni Kroos, Dani Ceballos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham filling the starting spots, Paz serves as the manager’s first-choice backup off the bench.
Paz voices his elation
Paz’s introduction against Napoli changed the texture of the game, and it was only poetic that he got the goal that put Real Madrid ahead again on the night.
Speaking to the media after his special night, the Castilla star did not hold back on his emotions.
“This is a dream. For a moment I didn’t even believe it. Very happy to be able to help the team. I dared. I was in automatic mode, I didn’t even know what I was doing. I hit it and well.”
“This is also a message for the other youth players: it is possible to get there. Ancelotti congratulated me, and the whole staff. They are an incredible group and I want to thank them all,” he added, urging his Castilla teammates to keep pushing.