|First Division - Day 4|
Real Madrid 3 - Athletic Bilbao 1
Michel Salgado, Iván Helguera, Woodgate, Roberto Carlos; Pablo
García, Gravesen (Guti 46'); Beckham, Raúl (De la Red 87'),
Robinho, Ronaldo (Raúl Bravo 70'). 4-2-3-1.
Team changes: Madrid: Woodgate, Gravesen for Sergio Ramos, Baptista / Athletic: Casas, Tiko for Iraola, Llorente.
A strong second half performance from Real Madrid saw off Athletic Bilbao. Early on it seemed, yet again, as if it would not be Real's night when a curling Robinho shot struck the base of the post. The Basque club took the lead at the Bernabeu midway through the first period. The goal was a calamity for Jonathan Woodgate who at long last was making his league debut for the home side. The former Newcastle player threw himself at an Etxeberría effort that looked to be going wide. The Englishman's header left Casillas with no chance. Things were to get worse for Woodgate when he was sent off after receiving a second yellow card in the 66th minute.
By that time the Whites had edged ahead. The half time introduction of Gutí in place of Pablo García, added a cutting edge to the Madrid midfield. Robinho changed his side's fortunes by heading home a Beckham free kick after 52 minutes. Then the effervescent Raúl swept in a Ronaldo cutback just before Woodgate's expulsion.
The home side reacted to what they saw as the unjust departure of Woodgate by continuing to push forward, a Roberto Carlos drive soon forced Aranzubia into a terrific save. From the resulting corner Raúl stole in ahead of a drowsy defence to score a third with a glancing header.
It was a killer blow for Bilbao at a time when they were hoping to take advantage of the extra man. The Basques failed to take advantage of a number of late chances to put some pressure on their hosts, most notably a header from the substitute Llorente that came back off the crossbar.
It will be a big relief to coach, Vanderlei Luxemburgo, that his team looked more like Galacticos than fading stars on their second half showing. There was a lot of good link play in attacking areas and some tricky skills from Robinho entertained the fans. Raúl was outstanding throughout. But questions may still be raised about why he is playing so deep when he is at his most effective in the penalty area.