Hazard 8/10, Bale 6/10 as Madrid drop points vs. Celta Vigo
Real Madrid conceded a late equaliser after Eden Hazard had won a penalty on his return from injury in a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo. The result saw Madrid's lead over Barcelona at the top of La Liga cut to just a single point.
Struggling Celta went ahead early at the Bernabeu when Iago Aspas played in Russian forward Fedor Smolov to finish past Thibaut Courtois. Madrid found it hard to create clear-cut chances in a first half that ended with Courtois saving well from Joseph Aidoo's header.
Zinedine Zidane's team improved after the break as Sergio Ramos had a goal ruled out for offside and Toni Kroos equalised from Marcelo's cross. Ramos put Madrid ahead, scoring from the penalty spot when Hazard was brought down, before Celta's Santi Mina grabbed a late equaliser.
Eden Hazard is back. After 82 days out injured, that's massive news for Real Madrid ahead of a key period that includes facing Manchester City in the Champions League and Barcelona in El Clasico.
The €100 million signing will need time to get back to his absolute best, and the team haven't necessarily missed him in his absence -- going unbeaten in La Liga -- but the Belgian showed enough on his return to remind everyone just how crucial he'll be to Real Madrid's hopes of winning the league this season.
Madrid's second-half display here was also encouraging, and they looked to have successfully turned this game around before disastrously conceding late on.
Celta Vigo -- who entered this game in the relegation zone -- had lost their last seven La Liga games at the Bernabeu. Celta looked like they could break that losing streak when Smolov put them ahead early on, and will have been delighted to go home to Galicia with a point.
Real Madrid really should be winning matches like this at home, and their defending for both Celta goals was poor, even if the passes from Aspas and Denis Suarez were superb.
In attack, their play too often involved launching hopeful balls into the box -- in the first half they attempted more crosses than in any other 45 minutes under Zinedine Zidane -- although that improved after half-time.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Zinedine Zidane was able to start Hazard, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema -- in theory at least, his first-choice attack -- together for just the fifth time this season. There were three changes to the team that won 4-1 at Osasuna last weekend, with Marcelo, Toni Kroos and Hazard coming in.
Eleven months to the day since his return to the Bernabeu hot seat, this turned out to be a disappointing evening for the French coach, just when it looked like he had managed to get his team playing with a renewed sense of urgency after the interval.
Zidane has won plenty of praise for Real Madrid's defending this season, with the best defensive record in La Liga, but a lack of concentration from his players saw them punished here twice.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 6 -- Will have been disappointed to concede both of Celta's goals, but couldn't be blamed for either. Courtois has been a big part of Real Madrid's impressive record at the back this year with 11 clean sheets, but couldn't add to that tally tonight. An excellent two-handed save from Aidoo just before half-time prevented Celta going in 2-0 up.
DF Dani Carvajal, 7 -- Along with Raphael Varane, Carvajal was to blame for Celta's opening goal as Smolov ran in between the two defenders. Otherwise, contributed going forward, even if his final ball was poor at times.
DF Sergio Ramos, 7 -- Had a well-taken goal ruled out for offside early in the second half and then calmly dispatched the penalty that saw Real Madrid take the lead. His fifth league goal this season, the captain boasts a flawless record from the spot. At the other end, was caught out by Santi Mina for the equaliser.
DF Raphael Varane, 6 -- A rare mistake saw Smolov get away from him for Celta's opening goal, and this was one of Varane's poorer games in what has been an otherwise consistently impressive season.
DF Marcelo, 7 -- Just his eighth La Liga start this season to Ferland Mendy's 11 and a big chance for the Brazilian to make an impression. Had his moments in attack but was also frustratingly inconsistent. One first-half move saw him intercept a dangerous Celta attack, combine with Hazard on the left and then put in a dreadful cross that almost flew out of play on the far side.
MF Casemiro, 7 -- Shot over the bar from distance as Madrid looked to respond to going a goal down in the first half. Otherwise, not his team's best performer, but far from the worst.
MF Toni Kroos, 8 -- Rested at Osasuna last weekend, Kroos scored with a trademark swept finish to make it 1-1. The German has an incredible record against Celta, having now found the net against them in six straight calendar years since 2015. Kroos is contributing more in attack with five goals and seven assists this season, after scoring just once all last campaign.
MF Federico Valverde, 7 -- Playing in a midfield three with Casemiro and Kroos gives the Uruguayan license to get forward regularly. He is an ever-energetic presence but this wasn't his best night.
FW Eden Hazard, 8 -- Back after 82 days from an injury that was initially meant to keep him out for two weeks, Hazard was involved right from the first minute, asking for the ball and looking to combine with Marcelo and Benzema on the left. He looked surprisingly sharp and was part of many of the good things Real Madrid did. Won the penalty that saw Madrid take the lead when he was needlessly fouled by Ruben Blanco and was withdrawn after playing just over 70 minutes.
FW Gareth Bale, 6 -- Hasn't scored at the Bernabeu now for 11 months, an incredible run stretching back to March 16, 2019. Started back-to-back league games here for the first time since early October. A quiet first half, one over-optimistic shot flying wide, and in the second got a yellow card for a late, desperate challenge on Rafinha with Celta's players calling for a red. A few whistles from the Bernabeu crowd as he was substituted late on.
FW Karim Benzema, 7 -- Has 13 La Liga goals this season but only one in his last eight games. Struggled to get going but grew into the game and his partnership with Hazard shows great promise. His pass played in the Belgian for the penalty, and had a late chance to score, blasting over.
FW Vinicius Junior, N/R -- Came on for Hazard with 20 minutes to go.
MF Luka Modric, N/R -- Replaced Toni Kroos with Real Madrid leading 2-1.
DF Ferland Mendy, N/R -- Came on for Bale just before his team conceded.