Real Madrid 3-2 Levante: Hazard makes debut as Benzema double secures nervy win

Karim Benzema scored twice in Real Madrid's 3-2 win over Levante as Eden Hazard made his long-awaited debut.

Karim Benzema opened the scoring for Real Madrid and finished the match having scored a brace.   -  Getty Images

Eden Hazard made his Real Madrid debut as it claimed a nervy 3-2 victory over Levante in LaLiga thanks to two goals from Karim Benzema.

A brace from Benzema, plus a goal from Casemiro, ensured Madrid was firmly in control when 3-0 ahead at the break before a second-half fightback from the visitor.

Borja Mayoral, on loan at Levante from Madrid, pulled a goal back and the home team conceded again when Gonzalo Melero headed in from a corner, with Thibaut Courtois preserving its lead with a fine save in the closing minutes.

Hazard, who joined from Chelsea, was given a warm welcome when introduced on the hour, the Belgium forward having missed his new club's opening three games of the season with a muscle injury.

Madrid dominated the first half and its pressure and intensity were rewarded with a three-goal cushion at the interval.

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James Rodriguez caused problems for Levante – unbeaten on its previous two visits to the Bernabeu – with the Colombian's clever pass finding Lucas Vazquez, who sent Dani Carvajal scampering free on the right.

Carvajal's high cross was met by Benzema, who stole space in front of his marker and glanced a header past Levante goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez.

James was influential again five minutes later when he played a deft pass into the penalty area for Benzema, who clinically dispatched his second.

However, the pick of Madrid's goals came on the stroke of half-time, a sweeping team move culminating in Vinicius Junior's low cross for Casemiro to tap home from close range.

Mayoral refused to celebrate against his parent club when he netted four minutes after the interval, the forward sweeping the ball home following good work by Carlos Clerc. 

Benzema struck the base of the post but Madrid's defence was left hanging on for the final 15 minutes when a well-worked corner allowed substitute Melero to head in at the back post.

What does it mean? Madrid survive second-half scare

Zinedine Zidane's side secured their first home win of the season after a stylish first half full of free-flowing football, but Levante gave them a real fright.

The result means Madrid remains in the chasing pack behind city rival Atletico Madrid. Levante, meanwhile, leaves with its heads held high, albeit no points to show for its efforts.

Brilliance from Benzema

Benzema's international career with France may appear to be over but he will get a chance to remind the French public of his qualities when Madrid goes to Paris next. In this kind of form, he will relish the opportunity.

Frustrating day for Fernandez

There was little goalkeeper Fernandez could do about any of Madrid's goals and he will feel slightly aggrieved to have come away with nothing more to show for a decent performance between the posts.

What's next

Madrid begins its Champions League campaign on Wednesday with a trip to Paris Saint-Germain before another tricky away day at Sevilla. As for Levante, it is back in LaLiga action next Saturday when it hosts Eibar.

Key Opta facts

- Only Kylian Mbappe (21) and Lionel Messi (21) have scored more goals in 2019 than Karim Benzema (19) in the top five European Leagues.
- Vinicius Junior provided his first assist in LaLiga (22 games played).
- James Rodriguez has provided 40 assists for Madrid in all competitions, 10 of them for Benzema, more than for any other player (alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, also 10).
- Madrid has failed to keep a clean sheet in its last eight LaLiga games, its second worst run under Zinedine Zidane (9 between December 2017 and February 2018).
- Madrid has won against Levante in LaLiga for the first time since October 2015 at Santiago Bernabeu (D1 L1 in the last two seasons).

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