MADRID (AFP) – Late strikes from Fede Valverde and Marco Asensio maintained Real Madrid’s 100 per cent start to the season with a 2-0 Champions League home win over RB Leipzig on Wednesday.
It threatened to be a frustrating night for the 14-time winners and European holders until Valverde finally provided the breakthrough in the 80th minute.
It continued the Uruguayan midfielder’s recent fine form and he celebrated emphatically in front of a relieved Santiago Bernabeu.
Substitute Asensio then slammed home the second in stoppage time after Toni Kroos pulled a short free-kick back to the edge of the box.
Victory kept Madrid top of Group F on six points, ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk on four, and they have won all eight games they have played this season in all competitions.
“With the shot that he has I told him if he’s not capable of scoring 10 goals a season then I’d snap my coaching licence. His foot is a rock!” joked Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti of Valverde.
“He’s not just dynamic and energetic, but he reads situations well and is intelligent.”
Leipzig tested Thibaut Courtois early on when Christopher Nkunku broke down the right flank and squeezed off a shot from a tight angle. At the other end, Rodrygo dragged a strike wide of the near post.
The Brazilian forward, playing as a false nine in the absence of injured talisman Karim Benzema, was chosen over Eden Hazard and Asensio after impressing against Real Mallorca last weekend.
There were half-chances at both ends – Timo Werner for the visitors and Eduardo Camavinga for the hosts – before the best opportunity of the first half fell to Madrid defender Antonio Rudiger, who steered a header well wide.
Luka Modric tumbled under heavy pressure in the area shortly before the break but his appeals were waved away, to the chagrin of Madrid’s increasingly frustrated fans.
After netting 16 goals in their last five games, home supporters expected more creativity and Ancelotti took action by sending on Asensio for midfielder Camavinga.
The forward was whistled by sections of the Bernabeu after he had shown his frustration at not being given more game time this season on the side of the pitch during the win over Mallorca.
The hosts’ angst grew when Vinicius, the scorer of last season’s Champions League final winning goal against Liverpool, was denied by Peter Gulacsi from close range after Valverde had barrelled into the area in typically intense fashion.
Madrid finally broke the deadlock when Valverde, deployed on the right of the attack to great effect, cut inside and curled home with his weaker left foot.
It was his third goal in six games, following strikes against Celta Vigo and Mallorca, with the 24-year-old continuing to show why he is preferred in the position.