La Liga: Karim Benzema nets brace as Real Madrid edge Levante
Karim Benzema scored twice on Saturday in an outstanding performance for Real Madrid against Levante, although his side were left hanging on for a 3-2 win on the day Eden Hazard made his La Liga debut.
The French striker’s goals came just six minutes apart in the first half on a wet afternoon at the Santiago Bernabeu, before Casemiro put Real 3-0 up.
However Levante, who had won their previous two outings, made a fight of it in the second half as they pulled goals back through Borja Mayoral and Gonzalo Melero.
While the manner of their victory was not as convincing as coach Zinedine Zidane might have wished, it was a welcome return to winning ways for Real after they had drawn their previous two games.
Hazard also came off the bench for the final half-hour to make his first appearance in La Liga after a thigh injury had interrupted the start of his Real career following his 100 million-euro ($110 million) move from Chelsea.
The Belgian could now start for Real when they go to Paris Saint-Germain for their opening Champions League game on Wednesday.
Gareth Bale will also be available for that match after suspension kept him out here, but Sergio Ramos will be unable to play against PSG because of a European ban.
Zidane was also without the injured Luka Modric here. However, as well as Hazard, fellow summer signing Eder Militao came off the bench in the second half and the former Porto defender could start in Paris in place of Ramos.
Real would have won by a greater margin here had it not been for some inspired goalkeeping from Aitor Fernandez, who produced a stunning one-handed stop to keep out a Benzema shot from the edge of the area midway through the first half.
However, the hosts went ahead shortly after that when Dani Carvajal held up a cross from the right for Benzema to bullet home a header from the edge of the six-yard area.
The Frenchman struck again in the 31st minute, with James Rodriguez pouncing when Sergio Postigo headed the ball down into his path, and teeing up Benzema to score his fourth of the campaign.
Benzema was also involved in the build-up to the third goal five minutes before the interval, which concluded with Vinicius Junior squaring for Casemiro to apply the finish.
Levante pulled one back in the 49th minute as Carlos Clerc crossed from the left to the near post where Mayoral -- on loan from Real -- converted.
Benzema then curled a shot against the post, while Vinicius had a goal disallowed for offside and Hazard tested Fernandez, but it was Levante who scored again.
This time substitute Melero proved too strong for Carvajal at the far post as he headed in a marvellous cross by Jose Campana, yet Madrid held out.