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Battered and ‘Brugged’! Madrid & struggling Hazard escape another humiliation

20:11 BST 01/10/2019
Eden Hazard Real Madrid 2019-20
The Blancos' poor recent European form continued, as only a late Casemiro goal salvaged a 2-2 draw at home against Club Brugge

One step forward, two steps back. That’s how it works at Real Madrid these days.

Just as it seemed as if Zinedine Zidane’s side had finally plugged their leaky defence - stopping the rot after being humiliated by PSG a fortnight ago - they went and spoiled it all with an embarrassing display at the Santiago Bernabeu against Club Brugge.

Madrid were thrashed 3-0 in their Champions League opener by an under-strength PSG team missing Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani.

However, three consecutive clean sheets in La Liga - a first in either Zidane era - to go with wins over Sevilla, Osasuna and then a draw at Atletico Madrid, took Madrid to the top of the table.

Crisis talk abated, rays of light cutting through the gloom, as Zidane and Co looked to get back to business against Club Brugge in what seemed a straightforward game.

So much so that the coach left Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez out of his squad entirely - two of the club’s best players so far in this campaign.

But Madrid were sliced open repeatedly by the Belgians on the break, stumbling to a 2-2 draw on Tuesday night.

Los Blancos were left battered and bruised, the 13-time record winners of the competition dismissed with their tails between their legs once again. Indeed, only a late Casemiro goal prevented the ultimate humiliation.

The highs of their three consecutive Champions League titles between 2016 and 2018 now seem like an eternity ago.

Just as they were thrashed 4-1 here by Ajax in the last 16 second leg clash last season, Brugge seemed to cut through Madrid at will.

Madrid were susceptible to pacy attacks and Brighton loanee Percy Tau got in behind captain Sergio Ramos to set up Emmanuel Dennis for the opening goal.

The forward didn’t know much about the finish, stabbing home accidentally as he miscontrolled the ball, leaving goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois all at sea.

Dennis’ 11th minute strike was the quickest goal Madrid have conceded at home in the Champions League group phase since Luciano Galletti struck after seven minutes for Olympiacos in 2007.

Madrid managed their first effort on target after 27 long minutes, with Raphael Varane’s header well parried by ex-Liverpool man Simon Mignolet.

Before that only efforts from midfield duo Toni Kroos and Luka Modric - which both flew wide - did anything to raise the pulses of fans at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Hazard had a chance to shoot after half-an-hour but looked to tee up Karim Benzema, with his pass cut out. At Chelsea, he surely would have looked for goal himself.

The Belgian remains daunted by his new surroundings, backing up his pre-match claims that he needed to improve greatly to be considered a Galactico.

As the minutes ticked by, Hazard failed to improve, even if he was allowed greater liberty to float around the pitch.

Just before half time Dennis struck again after steaming through Madrid’s non-existent defence, stumbling once more but pulling off a fine lofted finish to beat Courtois.

Sergio Ramos’ header pulled a goal back for Madrid and then Casemiro equalised in the 85th minute, after Brugge captain Ruud Vormer was sent off.

In between it had been Brugge who came closer to scoring another, with Alphonse Areola making a stunning save to deny Dennis his hat-trick.

The French goalkeeper - on loan from PSG - replaced Courtois at half-time, who left to whistles.

Neither goal was his fault but the Belgian has now astonishingly conceded 10 goals in his last four Champions League matches.

Reports in Madrid suggest Courtois was taken off because of stomach problems. His spell in the capital has left plenty of fans feeling sick.

Madrid could not complete their comeback with a late winner and they have now failed to win in three home Champions League matches in a row.

The kings of Europe are on their knees.