Real Madrid sent out a warning to Liverpool during their final home game of the season with a comprehensive 6-0 victory over Celta Vigo on Saturday evening.
Even without the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo or Sergio Ramos, Los Blancos continued their ruthless streak inside the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu – stretching their unbeaten home La Liga run to nine games – via a trio of stunning first half strikes courtesy of Gareth Bale, who grabbed a brace, and Isco.
And further gloss was added to the scoreline in the second half, as Achraf Hakimi, a Sergi Gomez own goal and Toni Kross all found the back of the net to round off the six-goal rout.
The result does very little to the Primera Division table; with both sides all but already cementing their respective finishing league spots, but it may give boss Zinedine Zidane further food for thought regarding his Champions League final starting XI in Kiev in just two weeks time.
With very little riding on the outcome of the contest, it came as no surprise to see both sides adopt a somewhat pedestrian pace from the outset.
However, one man whose display in the penultimate La Liga encounter could be the difference between featuring in the upcoming Champions League final or watching on from the substitutes’ bench is Bale, and the Welshman delivered once again with his first attack of the night.
Keylor Navas’ long goal-kick was beautifully chested down by Luka Modric on the halfway line ahead of the Croatian’s sublime turn, which afforded him the opportunity to tee up his 28-year-old team-mate; whose cooly slotted home finish in off the post gave Zidane an even greater selection headache ahead of his side’s trip to Kiev later this month.
But the Frenchman’s attention was quickly drawn back to the matters unfolding before him in the Spanish capital as Jozabed eventually bundled the ball into the Los Blancos goal, only for – somewhat unconventionally – referee Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes to rule the strike out for offside – a correct call, yet one the linesman should have spotted.
And after seeing their goal chalked off, any Celta Vigo spirit that had entered the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu ahead of kick-off seemed to deflate on the half-hour mark as Bale doubled both his and his side’s return with a simply stunning finish.
The former Tottenham Hotspur man refused to give up on what seemed to be a lost cause of a through ball down the right flank before beating his defender with a smart first touch and bending his left-footed effort past the helpless Sergio Alvarez to all but ink his name on Zidane’s final team sheet.
However, refusing to be outdone by his Welsh team-mate, Isco soon got in on the act with his own majestic strike from the edge of the area to give Real Madrid a well-deserved three-goal cushion with what was almost a carbon copy of Bale’s, although on the other side of the area, just two minutes earlier.
Despite finding themselves with an insurmountable challenge to overcome in the blink of an eye, the Galicians continued to plug away and had it not been for a strong close-range stop from Navas to deny Daniel Wass, a touch of gloss could have been taken from the 3-0 scoreline at half-time.
After the break, the hosts were not keen to rest on their laurels, and it took just over five minutes for Alvarez to be picking the ball out of his net again; this time Achraf being the one to beat the 31-year-old goalkeeper.
The teenager was found down the right-hand side of the Celta Vigo area – utilising his pace to get the better of his defender – before the La Fabrica graduate unleashed a low shot across the face of goal which got the better of the Celticos shot-stopper’s somewhat lackadaisical efforts.
However, despite already knowing they would be leaving the Spanish capital with nothing, Celta Vigo’s ordeal was not over as with just over 15 minutes from time, Gomez could do little else but turn the ball into his own net after substitute Marco Asensio delivered a testing cross into the area from the left-hand byline.
And with less than 10 minutes of the regulatory 90 remaining, Kroos, who has scored more goals against the Galician outfit than any other in La Liga, heaped further misery on Juan Carlos Unzue’s men after punishing yet more shoddy defending with a simple finish inside the area to round off a perfect night for Los Blancos.
The victory means Celta’s winless run in Madrid now stretches to five games; meanwhile, Zidane’s outfit can still catch rivals Atletico Madrid on the final day of the season should they claim maximum points and Atleti taste defeat.