Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard and contrasting fortunes of Real Madrid’s superstars

Real began their La Liga campaign and Carlo Ancelotti’s second spell in charge with a 4-1 over Alaves as both Bale and Hazard were handed starts, and the pair of ex-Premier League wingers each had differing evenings

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Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard had contrasting fortunes as Real Madrid got their La Liga season underway with a win on Saturday.

Real beat Alaves 4-1 away from home to start Carlo Ancelotti’s second spell as Madrid manager in style.

Karim Benzema struck twice in the emphatic victory and his brace was supplemented by goals from defender Nacho Fernandez and substitute Vinicius Junior.

Ancelotti, who swiftly left Everton upon the end of last term after the Santiago Bernabeu hot seat became vacant, opted to start both Bale and Hazard either side of talisman Benzema in an experienced forward line.

The pair of ex-Premier League wingers struggled in Zinedine Zidane’s own second stint as boss in the Spanish capital, which came to an end following a failed title defence in 2020-21.

Eden Hazard is looking to kickstart his faltering Real Madrid career under Carlo Ancelotti this season

The match marked a fresh start, however, and Hazard showed the sort of skill Los Blancos fans have been yearning for since his £103.5million move from Chelsea in 2019.

The Belgian, who showed glimpses of his quality at Euro 2020 before injury struck once again, provided an assist for his club’s first goal of the game after 48 minutes.

His elegant back heel from Lucas Vazquez’s pullback took the hosts’ defence by surprise, allowing Benzema to dispatch and break the deadlock in south-east Spain.

Hazard also created a match-high four chances during his stellar performance, playing three key passes as Real flexed their muscles in the second half.

The 30-year-old was withdrawn for Vinicius immediately after Joselu’s penalty pulled a goal back for Alaves on 65 minutes to make it 3-1 as Ancelotti sought to freshen up his side for the closing stages.

Bale only managed two minutes more in a contrasting display.

As well as picking up a yellow card, the Welshman failed to create a single change and had a pass accuracy of just 67% compared to Hazard’s impressive 92%.

Gareth Bale is back at Real Madrid for the final year of his contract

Donning his new number, 18, Bale failed to find the form he showed towards the end of last season for Tottenham Hotspur as he scored five goals in his final five games, capping a productive loan campaign back in north London.

Having also impressed at the European Championships, Ancelotti appears to harbour a fair amount of faith in the 32-year-old.

The team has worked really hard in pre-season, every single player has put in a shift,” the Italian said post-match.

“Bale has also been totally committed and I’ll think he’ll improve because he’s still not at full fitness.

“I’ve been impressed with him and he’s shown great desire.”

Speaking of players looking to make an impression, new signing David Alaba made his debut and grabbed an assist himself.

Playing in his ‘natural’ left-back position, the former Bayern Munich defender crossed for Vinicius to strike in added-time.

Ancelotti still wanted more from Alaba, though.

“We want to play with intensity, with or without the ball,” he explained. “I don’t think we had the courage to press high up when we could have.

“We have quick defenders in Eder Militao, Nacho, David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez. So, we could have pressed more.”

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