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MADRID: Real Madrid got off to a winning start in La Liga on Sunday by comfortably beating neighbours Getafe 2-0 at home with an inspiring performance from Gareth Bale in the European champions’ first league outing since the summer departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and coach Zinedine Zidane.

Bale scored and set up the other goal for Real, who for the first time in nearly a decade started its league campaign without Ronaldo, the club’s greatest goal-scorer.

The Wales forward , who hadn’t played much while Ronaldo was still on the team before he moved to Juventus in the offseason, scored in the 51st minute with a shot from inside the area after a well-placed cross by Marco Asensio having helped to set up Dani Carvajal’s looping header which broke the deadlock in the 20th minute.

“I feel good,” said Bale, who has scored in Real’s league opener in three straight years and was given a standing ovation by the home supporters in his first competitive game back at the Santiago Bernabeu since sco­r­ing twice in the 3-1 win over Liverpool in the Champions Lea­gue final. “We are very up­beat with our chances this season.”

Silva an instant hit for Sevilla

The result lifts the pressure on Julen Lopetegui, who replaced Zidane as coach, after Wednesday’s painful 4-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup and sees Real join champions Barcelona on three points after one game, although Sevilla lead the standings on goal difference after their 4-1 win at Rayo Vallecano.

Sevilla forward Andre Silva became the first player since Romario in 1993 to bag a hat-trick in his La Liga debut, helping Sevilla to thrash Rayo and scoring the first goal to be awarded in the Spanish top flight with the use of video technology (VAR). Top-flight debutants Huesca sprang a surprise by winning 2-1 at Eibar.

Lopetegui again chose Costa Rica international Keylor Navas in goal ahead of 30-million-euro ($34.31-million) signing Thibaut Courtois and fielded Spanish midfielder Dani Ceballos over Luka Modric, who was also left out of the starting line-up in the Super Cup game but came on in the second half. He also selected Nacho at the heart of the defence rather than French World Cup winner Raphael Varane.

But Real were rarely in trouble on Sunday.

Bale had already struck the crossbar with a 16th-minute header, and a few minutes later he provided the cross that led to Carvajal’s goal after Getafe goalkeeper David Soria failed to fully clear the ball.

Spanish winger Asensio joined Bale in hitting the woodwork and was also the catalyst for Real’s second goal, chasing down Getafe defender Djene Dakonam to win back the ball and cross for Bale to hammer it in off the post.

“It was very important to make a strong start with good sensations and we played very well; we have to go little by little but this is the right way to start the league season,” Real winger Asensio told reporters. “Cristiano has left but we have a good team. We are working hard, you saw that reflected on the pitch today and this is the way to continue.”

Franco Vazquez had put Sevilla ahead at Rayo before Silva demonstrated the goalscoring prowess which convinced AC Milan to pay 38 million euros for the Portugal international last season.

Silva, 22, scored only two goals in 24 Serie A appearances before joining Sevilla this month but quickly matched that tally by netting twice before halftime and completed his hat-trick in the 79th minute with another close-range strike.

Huesca needed only five minutes to score their first-ever goal in the top flight, coming from Alex Gallar after a neat run through the Eibar defense.

The midfielder also netted the second, a free-kick cross that missed everyone inside the area and went directly into the goal. Gonzalo Escalante pulled the hosts closer in the 69th.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2018