REPORT | 23/08/2015 | Alberto Navarro | PHOTOGRAPHER: Ángel MartínezThe Whites had 14 attempts, with eight on target, but found themselves up against an inspired Cuéllar. Kovacic made his debut.
- Liga BBVA
- Matchday 1
It was a frenetic first half at El Molinón, as a Sporting side drawing on the motivation of their top-flight return and the support of the home crowd imposed a high tempo on the game, with each team giving as good as it got from the off. The opening half hour saw the Whites come close to taking the lead. In a marvellous attack in the 12th minute, Luka Modric fed a fantastic through-ball with the outside of his boot for Gareth Bale, whose pace to run on to the pass was equally impressive. Having rounded Cuéllar, however, he found himself pushed wide and his finish could only find the side-netting. Jesé also had a chance to score in the 19th minute, but his angled shot flew centimetres off target.
More opportunities for the visitors
The end of the opening 30 brought about a change to the game, as Real Madrid took control of possession. The Whites were continuing to get themselves into good attacking positions in and around the Sporting area, and this time it was Cristiano Ronaldo who tried his luck. His powerful drive from the edge of the box on 32 minutes brought a fine stop out of the hosts' goalkeeper, who was steadily becoming the hero of the affair.
Nevertheless, the home side were out to prove that they're back in Primera División and here to stay. In the 36th minute, Alberto Lora crossed and Antonio Sanabria's header rebounded off the crossbar before bouncing on the goal line. Immediately afterwards, Real Madrid launched a counter-attack that saw Bale send the ball into the area and Cristiano fall to the turf as he prepared to turn the ball towards goal. Despite a tug on the Portuguese player by Sporting's defender, referee Javier Estrada Fernández waved away appeals for a penalty.
In the second half, Real Madrid were much the better side. The Whites pushed hard in their efforts to put themselves in front, but the goal would not come. It was not for the want of trying. Indeed, in the opening twenty minutes of the period they enjoyed three chances, courtesy of shots from the edge of the area from Isco and Cristiano in the 47th and 54th minutes respectively, and a 62nd-minute header by Bale from Modric's corner. Each attempt ended up in the hands of a well-positioned Cuéllar.
Kovacic makes his debut
Madrid were all out in their search to break the deadlock. Sporting, enclosed in their own area, could only seek to clear their lines, hold out and hope for the minutes to pass as quickly as possible. On 72 minutes, Rafa Benítez decided that it was the right time to give Mateo Kovacic his debut, to inject further energy into a side that were putting in a good performance, in which all that was lacking was a goal.
As Real Madrid continued to give it all they had, Cristiano Ronaldo cut inside in the 78th minute and saw his fiercely-struck effort parried by the hero of the evening. Marcelo, arriving on the stretch, was unable to take advantage of the rebound. The guests were laying siege to the Sporting goal and the on-song Cuéllar was again in stunning form to turn away another Cristiano strike in the 84th minute. The goal refused to come, despite the Whites shooting on 14 occasions. Real Madrid deserved to take a win from their first fixture of the La Liga season, and must now set their sights on their opening league encounter at the Santiago Bernabéu.