Hazard makes debut as Real Madrid hold on to beat Levante


Eden Hazard made his Real Madrid debut as Karim Benzema scored twice in a nervy La Liga win over Levante.

Hazard, a summer signing from Chelsea, has recovered from a muscle injury and came on after 60 minutes at 3-1.

Real had led 3-0, with Benzema scoring a header and slotting home a James Rodriguez pass, before Casemiro netted.

But Borja Mayoral scored against his parent club and then Gonzalo Melero set up a tense ending with a header that beat Thibaut Courtois at his near post.

Real almost blew a three-goal lead in La Liga for the first time since 1946, but Ruben Vezo’s header in injury time was turned away by an instinctive Courtois save, the Belgian’s only stop of the game.

Hazard finally makes his bow

Belgium forward Hazard waited years to get his dream move to Real Madrid – in a deal which could end up costing £150m – and he had to wait a few weeks more for his debut after suffering an injury in pre-season.

He replaced goalscorer Casemiro after an hour, and was immediately in the action – setting up a chance for Vinicius Jr, which was blocked, and then having a shot saved by Aitor Fernandez.

However, short of fitness, the 27-year-old became a peripheral figure as Levante started to grow into the game – though he did manage 29 touches of the ball, a 100% passing rate and two shots on target, as well as winning three free-kicks.

Whether he has done enough – or is fit enough – to start at Paris St-Germain in Wednesday’s Champions League opener remains to be seen.

Real frailties show again

Karim Benzema celebrates scoring for Real Madrid against Levante

Karim Benzema has scored seven La Liga doubles since Cristiano Ronaldo left in the summer of 2018. Only Gareth Bale and Mariano Diaz have scored more than one goal in a game (once each).

The overhaul of the squad that Zinedine Zidane wanted failed to fully materialise in the summer, although six of the seven men on the bench were new recruits, including Hazard and fellow debutant Eder Militao.

After failing to land Paul Pogba in the summer, and letting Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente leave, they found themselves with only three fit midfielders in the squad for the Levante game because of injuries.

Nonetheless, Real appeared in complete control at 3-0 up, with Benzema scoring his seventh La Liga double since the start of last season and Casemiro adding a third.

Benzema and Lucas Vazquez also hit the woodwork, while Vinicius Jr had a goal disallowed.

But the hosts, who had drawn their previous two games, have not kept a clean sheet since 28 April and looked fragile again at the back.

A summer policy change almost cost them on Saturday. In previous years, they have not allowed their loan players to feature against them, but they do now and Mayoral refused to celebrate after tucking home Carlos Clerc’s cross.

And panic mode set in after Melero made it 3-2, especially with Casemiro and captain Sergio Ramos having already been substituted. But Courtois saved them late on with a stop from Vezo as they saw out their first home win of the season.



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