MADRID – Late strikes from Fede Valverde and Marco Asensio’s allowed Real Madrid to maintain their 100 per cent start to the Champions League campaign with a 2-0 win over RB Leipzig.
It threatened to be a frustrating night for the record 14-time winners and reigning champions until Valverde finally provided the breakthrough, continuing his fine recent form and celebrating emphatically in front of a relieved Santiago Bernabeu after netting in the 80th minute.
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. That wrapped up the win and kept Madrid top of Group F on six points, ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk on four.
The victory means Madrid have won all eight games they have played this season, but that record was at risk until Valverde’s intervention.
“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 Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“He’s not just dynamic and energetic, but he reads situations well and is intelligent.”
Leipzig had 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 for the role after impressing against Real Mallorca last weekend in La Liga.
There were half-chances at both ends for Timo Werner and Eduardo Camavinga, before the best opportunity of the first half fell to Madrid defender Antonio Rudiger, who steered a header well wide of goal from a dangerous position in the box.
Ancelotti switch pays off
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 coach Carlo Ancelotti took action by sending on Asensio for midfielder Camavinga.
The forward was whistled by some sectors 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.