MADRID -- Three thoughts from Real Madrid's 5-1 win over Legia Warsaw in the Champions League at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.
1. Madrid win helter-skelter encounter
Real Madrid's 400th game in European competition brought their 238th victory in what was at times an entertaining 5-1 win against Polish champions Legia Warsaw.
Madrid were far from their best, but were always likely to take the three points -- with Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez, Alvaro Morata and Legia's Tomasz Jodlowiec (own goal) on their side of the score sheet, and Miroslav Radovic's penalty kick counting as the consolation for the visitors.
It was pretty clear from the off that the UCL holders were not as focused or intense as coach Zinedine Zidane would have liked them to be. Bale and Danilo both let the ball run over their feet and out of play in the opening minutes, and it was evident that Madrid were not fully prepared for an opponent they knew came into the game fourth from the bottom of the Polish Ekstraklasa table.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema both missed relatively simple chances in the opening stages, but it did not matter as plenty more were to come over the course of what was ultimately a helter-skelter encounter. Bale opened the scoring on 16 minutes when he was allowed to advance on the ball into the box before being given space to rifle a low-angled, left-footed shot into the back of the net for what was amazingly his first UCL goal since December 2014.
Real's second goal came just three minutes later, when Marcelo was also allowed a free hit in a dangerous position and the ball cannoned off Jodlowiec and into the net. The fun continued, with Radovic getting one back from the spot before Ronaldo teed up Asensio to fire low into the net from the edge of the area to restore Madrid's two-goal advantage. It was entertaining stuff for neutrals, but Zidane will surely not have been happy with the game's scattered nature, and there were grumbles and even whistles from the Bernabeu crowd as Legia remained in the game.
The second half was less fun as the pace dropped off. Morata, the substitute centre-forward, crossed for fellow replacement Lucas Vazquez to fire first-time to make it 4-1. Morata got a goal himself when he was set up by Ronaldo with time running out. But Ronaldo reached nine shots at goal by the end with just two on target, and the Portuguese star's frustration was evident.
Goal difference could be a factor in how this group ends up, particularly after Borussia Dortmund also got to seven points with a 2-1 win at Sporting Lisbon in Group F's other game. While victory was never really in doubt, this was not a fully satisfactory evening for Zidane or Madrid.
2. Asensio scores on debut, again
Zidane gave Asensio another chance to impress, and his performance showed both what is so promising about his game and what was so problematic about Madrid's setup.
The 20-year-old's main moment came when he finished unerringly as Ronaldo laid the ball back to him 15 yards out. The shot was struck low and true and gave Legia goalkeeper Arkadiusz Malarz no chance. The youngster definitely knows how to take an opportunity; he has now scored on his competitive, La Liga and Champions League debuts for Madrid.
Less impressive, although not entirely his fault, was Asensio's difficulty with holding up the defensive duties required of him as an interior midfielder in Zidane's favoured 4-3-3. Positioned in theory to the left of holding midfielder Toni Kroos, the Mallorca-born starlet was often AWOL and allowed Legia to counter at will when Madrid lost possession. When he did get back and try some defensive work, there was an understandable uncertainty given that most of his football to date has been played much further up the pitch.
The much more experienced Kroos also suffered -- nutmegged embarrassingly by visiting midfielder Guilherme at one point in the match. While Zidane's very attacking XI was partly to blame, the overall laxness was pretty typical for Madrid. The club have had a tendency to throw in some dodgy autumn performances in this competition, but come good come springtime. Just one clean sheet in their last 10 games is surely something for Zidane to worry about, however.
3. Legia supporters remove joy from occasion
"We have nothing to lose," said Legia coach Jacek Magiera at Tuesday's prematch news conference, knowing well that his side were always unlikely to win anything at the Bernabeu. The visitors at least made a game of it, attacking regularly throughout the first half, taking advantage of the huge holes in Madrid's midfield and making for a lively encounter.
Given they had lost eight of their last 13 games in all competitions, plus the fact that it's been 21 years since they last won a match at this level, Legia were remarkably positive from the start. They had the game's first two shots on target and hit the post through Vadis Odjidja with the score at 0-0.
A deserved reward for their attacking intent came when Radovic tricked Danilo into a comically clumsy tackle in the box and picked himself up to send Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas the wrong way from 12 yards. Even with Madrid going clear on the scoreboard, Magiera's side kept pushing players forward, and their 4,000 travelling fans in the Bernabeu's top corner kept the noise up throughout.
The game will mostly be remembered, though, for the ugly clashes outside of the ground before kickoff, which saw five Polish ultras and two Spanish police injured. The trouble was not unexpected and security had been strengthened in advance. The reverse fixture in Warsaw on Nov. 2 will be played behind closed doors after fighting in the stands of Legia's opening home game against Borussia Dortmund.
Legia's willingness to play football was impressive, but their first-ever visit to the Bernabeu will not be remembered fondly in Madrid.