Hazard return a positive amongst negatives

Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

There was at least one positive to come from a string of negatives as Real Madrid dropped two points on home soil in the battle for LaLiga.

Zinedine Zidane’s men saw their lead at the top of the table cut to just a point with less than a fortnight to go until the crunch Clásico clash against Barcelona thanks to a late Santi Mina goal for Celta Vigo in the Spanish capital.

Goals from Toni Kroos and captain Sergio Ramos, from the penalty spot, saw Madrid come from a goal down to lead with five minutes to go on Sunday night before Mina’s late strike gave the visitors a share of the spoils.

Zidane deemed the result a “real blow” in his post-match press conference but the Frenchman could take at least one long-awaited positive from the performance.

Eden Hazard made his first appearance since suffering an injury in Madrid’s 2-2 home draw against Paris Saint-Germain at the end of November and looked sharp and ready for the bigger upcoming matches against Manchester City and Barcelona.

“I’m happy with Hazard’s comeback and the 70 minutes he’s given us,” said Zidane. “We know what a player he is and what he can give us. After three months out, it’s not easy to perform like he did today.”

The former Chelsea man had been wrapped in cotton wool, returning later than many had hoped but with one eye fully on those two big home matches coming up in the next fortnight. Zidane knew the Belgian needed minutes on the pitch to improve his match fitness and the 70 minutes on the Bernabéu pitch showed Hazard is heading firmly in the right direction.

He looked sharp, created plenty of chances and won the penalty that allowed Ramos to turn the game on its head in the second half. This was the Hazard the Bernabéu had been waiting for and he’s still on the road to full match fitness and sharpness.

“I’m happy with my performance, not with the result,” Hazard said. “We hope to do better in the next few games. I’m happy to have played 70 minutes, but in the end, I was tired after so much time out.”

The forward is now likely to get more minutes when Madrid travel to Valencia on Saturday to take on Levante in LaLiga.


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