European Cup royalty Real Madrid began their quest to win a record-extending 15th crown against Champions League debutants Union Berlin at home this evening.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men were made to work for their 1-0 success which they likely expected given Union’s growing reputation of being a conundrum for their more established rivals through being defensively sound, well-organised and exceptionally difficult to score against.
It took until stoppage from time for the deadlock-breaking goal, by that point, Real already had 31 attempts on goal (with only six on target) which included Rodrygo hitting the woodwork.
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Jude Bellingham, who is enjoying a fairytale start to life at Europe’s most decorated club, was at the right place at the right time to save Real’s blushes. It was also his first strike past Union having failed to score past them across six previous meetings all coming in Germany’s top division.
In doing so, the former Borussia Dortmund star became Real’s fourth player to score on both La Liga and Champions League debut this century, after Cristiano Ronaldo (2009), Isco (2013) and Marco Asensio (2016).
Furthermore, aged 20 years and 83 days old, Bellingham became the youngest player to score a 90th-minute winning goal for Real in the Champions League, and the youngest Englishman to do so in the competition for any side.
His goal (93:23) was the second-latest winning goal for Real in a Champions League game on record (since 2003/04), after Álvaro Morata’s effort Sporting CP in September 2016 (93:56).
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) September 20, 2023
“He was industrious and creative against a very well-organised Berlin defence. Created scoring opportunities for his team, read the game extremely well and capped it with a goal,” said UEFA’s Technical Observer Panel after Bellingham was named Player of the Match.
Bellingham moved onto six goals for the season in all competitions (with five of those strikes coming in the league). His endeavours, while playing at the tip of Ancelotti’s diamond, is reminiscent of Kaka, who took home the Ballon d’Or in 2007 while representing the Italian tactician’s celebrated Milan side. The fabled Brazilian deep-lying forward ended up as Milan’s top scorer across all competitions in 2006/07 and the outright Champions League top scorer. History could very well repeat itself with Bellingham in that role.
The unfashioned Bundesliga side, meanwhile, entered this season’s competition on the back of being fourth best last term, were seconds away from a famous result but instead maintained a mini streak Los Blancos has been putting together.
Union were the fifth side to face Real in their first-ever Champions League match, with each of the previous four (Internazionale 1998, Roma 2001, BATE Borisov 2008, Zürich 2009) and now them coming out on the losing side.