Real Madrid opened their 2023/24 LaLiga season with an impressive 2-0 win over Athletic Club at San Mamés in Bilbao, a fifth consecutive win in the Basque Country against the side in red and white.
Rodrygo Goes scored the team’s first goal of the season with a powerful shot at the near post, followed by another strike, this time from debutant Jude Bellingham from a corner.
These three stats help to tell the story of the match.
15: Years unbeaten in the first match of the LaLiga season
Real Madrid made it 15 consecutive seasons without defeat on the opening day by recording this 2-0 win. It’s a remarkable record which allows Real Madrid to start seasons strongly and is thanks in large part to a coach who has formed part of that run on two occasions.
Defeats have only come twice this century for the first game of the season, as you’d have to go back to August 25th, 2001, to Valencia in a 1-0 defeat, and a 2-1 loss to Deportivo La Coruña on August 31st, 2008. This was also the third consecutive victory, following away wins to Alavés and Almería in the last two years. It was also the first clean sheet since a 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad in 2020.
Carlo Ancelotti’s record in particular is incredible. 21 wins, six draws and only one defeat in 28 season openers in his career as a coach is almost remarkable, with his only debut defeat to come with Milan in 2008/09 in a 2-1 defeat to Bologna.
Equally, credit must go to Rodrygo Goes, who opened his season last year with five goal contributions in his first four games (albeit missing matchday one and two), and maintained that form to start this season.
3: Jude Bellingham became the third Englishman to score on his LaLiga debut for Real Madrid
It was a magnificent debut from Jude Bellingham as he made his first competitive appearance for Los Blancos. In addition to leading the match for duels won (13), dribbles (three) and fouls won (six), he also scored the team’s second goal with a strike just before half-time which caught out Unai Simón.
By scoring, Bellingham joins a club of Englishmen to score on their LaLiga debuts with Laurie Cunningham, who did so in 1979, and David Beckham, who did the same in 2003. Of course, there is also the unforgettable debut of Jonathan Woodgate in 2005, who also scored, but in the wrong net. Gary Lineker of Barcelona is the only other Englishman to achieve that feat at any Spanish club.
He also became the first Englishman to score for Real Madrid since David Beckham scored his final goal before joining LA Galaxy, which came in 2007.
The 20-year-old midfielder also became the third youngest player to score on his Real Madrid debut this century at 20 years and 44 days. It reflected the youth of this team with several impressive young players in the side, which had an average age of 24.7 with the line-up at San Mamés.
Bellingham’s display was a strong one across the board, with six recoveries and one chance created just showing how rounded his profile is. One tackle diving in after a long run reflected the dynamism and athleticism that sets him apart from many of his midfield rivals.
0.12: The xG of the two chances that Real Madrid scored from
After a pre-season which proved light on goals and attacking cutting edge, there were plenty of Madridistas who were understandably concerned about the lack of firepower among the options of Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo Goes as makeshift forwards.
This time, though, Rodrygo and Bellingham chipped in with the kind of proficiency that Real Madrid have become accustomed to in recent years from the likes of Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Rodrygo’s goal came from a shot worth 0.05 xG, while Bellingham’s scored at 0.07 xG, both with defenders and Spain’s number one standing between them and the back of the net. It could be said that Simón could have done better with Rodrygo’s effort, catching him off guard at his near post, but it was the speed and power of the shot that made it so easy to beat him.
The team’s overall expected goals came in at 0.92, meaning a 1.08 overperformance after regularly underperforming xG throughout pre-season. Ancelotti may be relieved to have seen that quality of finishing from his players, particularly from those who were not carrying the weight of expectation of replacing Benzema.
Much of that hope had been placed on the shoulders of Vinícius. The Brazilian recorded 0.29 xG from three shots, two of which were on target, with one forcing Simón into a strong save from close range.