Gareth Bale
MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 19: Gareth Bale of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Group G match of the UEFA Champions League between Real Madrid and AS Roma at Bernabeu on September 19, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Julen Lopetegui earned his first Champions League points as Real Madrid manager as his side eased past Roma. Goals from Isco, Gareth Bale and Mariano helped to ensure a comfortable win over the Italian side, who looked languid and unconvincing throughout.

Gareth Bale Has His Persistence Rewarded in Real Madrid Win

Confident Display From Julen Lopetegui’s Side

Isco opened the scoring with a delicately curled free-kick into the bottom left corner that left Robin Olsen rooted to the spot. Modric then sent through Gareth Bale with a precise through-ball and he clinically fired it into the bottom-right corner early in the 58th minute. This was all before the returnee, Mariano, curled the ball into the top-right corner to finish off Eusebio Di Francesco’s side in injury time.

Before Isco’s opener, Madrid looked toothless in attack and relied on long-range efforts that tended to sail over Olsen’s net. Roma, however, didn’t take advantage and, despite intermittently testing the Madrid back-line, they never looked particularly threatening.

No Ronaldo, No Problem

It has been a tremendous start for Lopetegui and this display demonstrated the style that he seeks to implement. Patient and possession-based football was the order of the day as the Champions League holders repeatedly unlocked the Roma defence. This performance comes after an unbeaten start in La Liga, which bodes well for Los Blancos.

In a post-Ronaldo world, Real Madrid proved their worth at Champions League level. Mariano was handed the number seven shirt and he lived up to the lofty expectation that comes with it. After coming off the bench, he fired an emphatic bending effort past Olsen in injury time.

Gareth Bale was undeniably a frustrated figure in the first half as he failed to satisfy the talismanic credentials of his predecessor. The Welshman was certainly lively and found himself in dangerous positions, but ultimately lacked the magic touch. It would have been a great relief when he finally doubled his side’s lead in the second half.

How Far Can Madrid Go?

Since the departure of Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, achieving their 14th Champions League title may seem unlikely. Tonight, however, Lopetegui’s side showed no signs of faltering in this competition, despite their managerial and attacking reshuffle.

Roma are usually no pushover, yet tonight they were languid and completely outclassed by a mature and well-oiled Madrid side. It might be suggested that Roma’s lethargy enabled Real Madrid to dominate proceedings, but realistically it was the sheer class of their opponents that sunk them.

Skepticism and doubt surrounding Real Madrid’s chances in the Champions League this term should now be slightly diffused. Granted, the latter stages will prove their resolve, and without Ronaldo’s moments of individual class, it may be more problematic.

Ultimately though, Real Madrid should and will always be considered as one of the favourites in this competition. Attention has now switched from Ronaldo’s performances and onto Los Blancos as a team, a team who will invariably carry a titanic threat.

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