Real Madrid have returned to the top of La Liga, following a professional display which saw them beat Mallorca 2-0 at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
There was yet another surprise from Zinedine Zidane, as he fielded Eden Hazard and Vinicius Junior for the first time in one starting line-up. Gareth Bale was also handed a first start since football returned from the global lockdown.
And immediately, the Mallorca keeper Manolo Reina was brought into action. Karim Benzema had a shot from close-range saved, and then Bale’s moving attempt from distance was palmed wide by Reina within the opening 10 minutes.
If Madrid came close, so did the visitors moments later. Iddrisu Baba had a pop from far out, and instead of usually getting himself in the way, Sergio Ramos dodged out of the way, meaning Thibaut Courtois was forced to make a huge save to deny the Ghanaian.
Unlike his defensive partner, Raphael Varane didn’t have the luxury of moving out of the way when his turn arrived to make a decisive block. Takefusa Kubo was through on goal, though the Frenchman was on-hand to block the Madrid-loanee’s opportunity.
But 10 minutes before the cooling break, Vinicius came into the spotlight. First, his delightful dink gave Madrid the lead, before Benzema then slid the Brazilian through on goal once more, but this time Vinicius’ chip shot struck the crossbar.
Mallorca finished the half on the front-foot, playing with more confidence as Kubo grew into his surroundings. They would have been sent out to start the second-half as they finished the first, but unfortunately for Vicente Moreno’s side, Madrid struck again.
Ramos was stood over a free-kick, and he calmly stroked it past a standing Reina, who could only watch it sail into the back of the net. It was just the second time Madrid have scored directly from a free-kick since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018 – and it was one which David Beckham would have been proud of.
Another hour under the belt of Hazard as he was replaced for Toni Kroos who was brought on to give the hosts some control. Madrid failed to carve out any other clear-cut opportunities though, and it was now a task of conserving energy. Kubo continued to shine, and showed more than a few glimpses of why Madrid were so keen to pluck him from the grasps of perennial rivals Barcelona.
Ultimately a solid performance from Madrid, but as Ramos conceded at the end of the match, his team were feeling the impact of schedule. Job done though, Los Blancos return to the summit of La Liga, and now only seven rounds remain in the race.
Up next for Real Madrid
Where: RCDE Stadium
When: Sunday 28th June @ 22:00 (CEST)