BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Jude Bellingham enjoyed a dream debut for Real Madrid after the England midfielder scored his team’s second goal in a 2-0 win at Athletic Bilbao in their Spanish league opener on Saturday.
Wearing the No. 5 of Madrid great Zinedine Zidane, Bellingham started the match while Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, the veterans he is tapped to take over from, watched from the bench at San Mames Stadium.
His goal was not a work of beauty like so many crafted by Zidane, and he perhaps had a bit of good fortune to guide it into the net. A left-side corner kick by David Alaba found Bellingham unmarked in the area, where he knocked the ball with one touch down onto the turf, only for it to bounce high and sail into the net over Spain goalkeeper Unai Simón.
The 20-year-old Bellingham jogged to the endline and raised his arms to soak up the applause from the section of Madrid fans in the otherwise red-and-white stands.
“First game, first victory, first goal. Hala Madrid!” Bellingham said in Spanish in a message posted on Madrid’s Twitter account after the game.
His goal doubled Madrid’s lead in the 36th after Rodrygo had put Madrid ahead eight minutes earlier.
Bellingham, who joined Madrid on a 130-million-euro ($142 million) move from Borussia Dortmund this summer, did show some Zidane-like flair when he made a graceful slalom to elude three defenders as he raced down the field and into Bilbao’s area in the second half.
“Bellingham is one of a kind,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. “He is motivated to play here. He is fantastic, with a great personality, he is hard working. He is a very important signing.”
Rodrygo, and fellow Brazilian Vinícius Júnior, will likely need all the extra goals that Bellingham and Madrid’s midfield can provide. The 14-time European Cup winners have not signed a world-class striker to replace Karim Benzema since his move to Saudi Arabia, as Madrid appears to be once again hoping it can lure Kylian Mbappé from Paris Saint-Germain.
Rodrygo got his goal when he rifled a low strike under Simón after he had worked a one-two combination with Dani Carvajal and bounced off defender Íñigo Lekue, who seemed more worried about not committing a penalty than impeding his progress.
Vinícius went close to adding a second after he spun around his marker, slipped past Bilbao’s last man, only for Simón to save his effort – before Bellingham did the honors of doubling the advantage.
Andriy Lunin was in goal for Madrid. A rarely used backup for the past three years, the Ukrainian keeper is now Madrid’s starter after Thibaut Courtois tore a left-knee ligament this week. Madrid’s defense saved Lunin from being seriously tested by Bilbao. Alaba and Aurélien Tchouaméni both got low to block shots by Oihan Sancet and Álex Berenguer when Bilbao mustered its best minutes late in the second half.
Madrid’s players wore T-shirts saying “Lots of strength, Tibo” before kickoff to show their support for Courtois.
Madrid may have lost center back Éder Militão to injury as well. The Brazil defender went down in pain just after halftime when his left knee appeared to twist awkwardly. He was helped to walk off by two team doctors.
“Militão has twisted his knee and it does not look good,” Ancelotti said. “We will evaluate it in the next hours… We are worried. Nothing can be ruled out.”
Striker Joselu and left back Fran García also debuted for Madrid.
Bilbao defender Óscar de Marcos, 34, made his 500th appearance for his club.
“They were better than us,” said Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde. “We had trouble getting out on attack. We couldn’t break their pressure and lost possession far too often. That stopped us from responding.”
Artem Dovbyk headed in a short cross from fellow Ukrainian Viktor Tsygankov to give Girona a 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad.
Dovbyk arrived at the Catalan club this summer and needed just eight minutes to get his first goal, canceling out Take Kubo’s fifth-minute opener for the hosts.
Sociedad finished fourth last season, earning a Champions League berth. However, it received a blow recently when veteran midfielder David Silva injured his knee and announced his retirement.
Nigeria forward Umar Sadiq made his first appearance since he suffered a serious leg injury early last season just after arriving at Sociedad as its star signing.
Also, Mallorca rallied for a 1-1 draw at promoted Las Palmas.