Real Madrid edge Viktoria Plzen in unconvincing Champions League win
Goals in either half from Karim Benzema and Marcelo set the Champions League holders on their way to a first victory in six outings.
Real Madrid claimed a much-needed three points with a 2-1 win over Viktoria Plzen but their problems remained on show in an unconvincing display with the visitors missing a string of chances.
Goals in either half from Karim Benzema and Marcelo set the Champions League holders on their way to a first victory in six outings, but Patrik Hrosovsky’s 78th-minute goal set up a nervy finish.
A victory of any kind was never likely to settle the questions which surround the club and the position of coach Julen Lopetegui days before El Clasico against Barcelona.
But one in which Madrid squandered several openings through poor decisions and left the door open at the back only begs more.
The match kicked off in a somewhat strange atmosphere given all that has been going on, and the hosts’ eagerness to score an early goal to settle some nerves was apparent from the start.
Captain Sergio Ramos almost did exactly that but was frustrated in the fifth minute when his downward header from Gareth Bale’s corner bounced up and on to the post.
And their vulnerability was soon on show as Milan Petrzela cut inside from the left, only to shoot straight at Kaylor Navas and then hit the side-netting on the rebound.
⏰ RESULTS ⏰— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 23, 2018
💥 Back with a bang!
🤔 Performance of the night? pic.twitter.com/KI4SL6ukxM
If alarm bells were ringing Benzema soon silenced them, at least temporarily, with an 11th-minute opener. The France forward met Lucas Vazquez’s raking cross at the far post with a powerful header which left Ales Hruska with no chance.
The apprehension was gone but Madrid still struggled to impose themselves on the match as it settled into a slow rhythm.
Plzen were the next to threaten and it again came down their left as they exposed Vazquez’s defensive shortcomings.
Petrzela played it into the path of right-back David Limbersky, but his attempt to bend it inside the far post drifted wide.
Moments later, Benzema wasted a golden chance to double the lead, selfishly shooting straight at the goalkeeper from a tight angle when a square ball would have left Bale with an open goal.
Bale did have the ball in the net against just after the half hour, but the Welshman was offside when he slid it home.
There was another let off for the visitors when a dreadful clearance from Hruska went straight to Isco but he sent his chipped shot wide of the post.
The half ended with Plzen wasting another glorious chance, Hrosovsky somehow diverting the ball high and wide from point-blank range with the Madrid defence static.
The second half started in a similar vein as Milan Havel missed from in front of goal.
They were punished for their profligacy as Marcelo doubled the lead after 55 minutes, latching on to a back-flick from Bale and lifting the ball over the goalkeeper.
79' GÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓL VIKTORIA!!!— FC Viktoria Plzeň (@fcviktorkaplzen) October 23, 2018
Tak jsme se dočkali! 🙌 PATRIK HROŠOVSKÝ krásnou přízemní ranou překonal Keylora Navase a snižujeme na Santiago Bernabéu na rozdíl jediného gólu! 👏#fcvp #UCL #RMCVP pic.twitter.com/4jjxvhkAPY
Chances soon followed to extend the lead, but Luka Modric shot straight at the goalkeeper while Bale headed wide from a corner before his curling shot from the edge of the area was deflected wide.
After Vazquez headed Isco’s superb cross wide, Plzen set up a nervous finish as Hrosovsky scored the goal they had been threatening all night, sliding the ball home from the edge of the area for his first career Champions League goal.
An equaliser never came but as Madrid trudged off the pitch, there was little sense of victory with Lopetegui’s position increasingly uncertain.