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Bellingham scores in Real Madrid debut against Athletic BilbaoBellingham scores in Real Madrid debut against Athletic Bilbao

Bellingham scores in Real Madrid debut against Athletic Bilbao

Publish – 13 aug , 2023

Jude Bellingham’s debut for Real Madrid turned into a dream come true as the English midfielder secured his team’s 2-0 victory against Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish league opener on Saturday.

Wearing the iconic No. 5 jersey once worn by Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane, Bellingham kicked off the match while Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, the seasoned players he’s seen as successor to, observed from the sidelines at San Mames Stadium.

His goal, though lacking the finesse of Zidane’s crafted beauties, carried a touch of fortune as he skillfully guided the ball into the net. A corner kick from the left side by David Alaba found Bellingham unmarked in the penalty area. With a single touch, he directed the ball down onto the turf, causing it to bounce high and elegantly sail over Spain’s goalkeeper, Unai Simón.

At the end of the game, the 20-year-old Bellingham jogged to the endline, raising his arms to bask in the applause from the section of Madrid fans amidst the sea of red-and-white-clad stands.

In a post-game message on Madrid’s Twitter account, Bellingham expressed his joy in Spanish, stating, “First game, first victory, first goal. Hala Madrid!”

Bellingham’s goal extended Madrid’s lead in the 36th minute, coming shortly after Rodrygo had put Madrid ahead eight minutes earlier.

Having made a €130 million ($142 million) move from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, Bellingham displayed a touch of Zidane-like flair by gracefully maneuvering past three defenders, sprinting down the field and infiltrating Bilbao’s defensive territory during the second half.

Madrid’s coach, Carlo Ancelotti, hailed Bellingham’s uniqueness, describing him as “one of a kind.” Ancelotti emphasized Bellingham’s motivation and exceptional qualities, praising his strong work ethic and distinctive personality, highlighting the significant impact of his signing.

Rodrygo and fellow Brazilian Vinícius Júnior are likely to benefit greatly from the additional goals that Bellingham, along with Madrid’s midfield prowess, can contribute. With Madrid yet to secure a world-class striker to fill the void left by Karim Benzema’s move to Saudi Arabia, the 14-time European Cup champions seem to be banking on the possibility of luring Kylian Mbappé away from Paris Saint-Germain once again.

Bellingham scores in Real Madrid debut against Athletic Bilbao
Getty Images

Bellingham scores in Real Madrid debut against Athletic Bilbao

Rodrygo secured his goal by firing a low strike beneath Simón after executing a one-two combination with Dani Carvajal, bouncing off defender Íñigo Lekue, who appeared more concerned about avoiding a penalty than obstructing Rodrygo’s progress.

Vinícius came close to adding another goal, spinning around his marker and eluding Bilbao’s last defender, only for Simón to save his effort – before Bellingham doubled the advantage.

In Madrid’s goal, Andriy Lunin, who has been a rarely used backup for the past three years, has now assumed the role of Madrid’s first-choice goalkeeper due to Thibaut Courtois’ left-knee ligament injury earlier in the week. Madrid’s defense shielded Lunin from severe tests by Bilbao. Both Alaba and Aurélien Tchouaméni made vital low blocks to thwart shots by Oihan Sancet and Álex Berenguer during Bilbao’s most promising moments late in the second half.

Before kickoff, Madrid’s players wore T-shirts bearing the message “Lots of strength, Tibo,” demonstrating their support for Courtois.

MILITAO INJURY

Madrid faced the potential loss of center back Éder Militão due to injury. The Brazilian defender experienced discomfort shortly after halftime, with his left knee appearing to twist awkwardly. He was assisted off the field by two team doctors.

“Militão twisted his knee, and the situation doesn’t look promising,” Ancelotti disclosed. “We will assess the condition in the upcoming hours… Our concern is real. We can’t rule out any possibilities.”

Striker Joselu and left back Fran García also made their debuts for Madrid.

Bilbao defender Óscar de Marcos, aged 34, celebrated his 500th appearance for the club.

“They outperformed us,” admitted Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde. “We struggled to initiate attacks. Their pressure stifled us, and our frequent loss of possession hindered our ability to respond.”

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