Lopetegui: Mariano took his chance

Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui praised striker Mariano Diaz after he came off the bench to score against Roma in the Champions League.

Real Madrid striker Mariano Diaz   -  Getty Images

Mariano Diaz took his chance by scoring on his first appearance since returning to Real Madrid, said head coach Julen Lopetegui.

The striker returned to Madrid after a single season in Ligue 1 with Lyon and Lopetegui had to explain why he left Mariano on the bench as his side stumbled to a 1-1 La Liga draw at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

Isco and Gareth Bale had already put Madrid 2-0 up against Roma in Wednesday's Group G opener when Mariano replaced the Wales star with 17 minutes to play.

And Mariano made the most of his cameo opportunity with a brilliant finish into the top-right corner that gave the scoreline the emphatic look Madrid's dominance deserved.

"His time had come and he made the most of it," Lopetegui told Movistar after his first Champions League match in charge of Madrid, winners of the tournament three years in a row.

"I'll take the team's triumph against a rival like Roma, who last year eliminated Barcelona and went far [the semi-finals].

"We knew they were going to make things difficult for us, but the team was very good, we made a great match, both defensively and offensively."

Luka Modric shone in midfield, setting up Bale for his goal, with Isco calling for the Croatia star to be given the 2018 Ballon d'Or in a post-match interview.

And Lopetegui also hailed the performance of Modric, who was linked with a move to Serie A side Inter throughout the transfer window.

"He has played a great game," the former Spain coach said. "He just missed a goal.

"You know that if you do not take advantage of the opportunities sooner or later the opponent can have them.

"But the team has played a great game and has deserved the three points."

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