La Liga round-up: Eden Hazard scores first league goal as Real Madrid beat Granadahttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/football/la-liga/eden-hazard-real-madrid-vs-granada-6055471/

La Liga round-up: Eden Hazard scores first league goal as Real Madrid beat Granada

Eden Hazard scored his first league goal for Real Madrid in a 4-2 win over Granada to answer criticism of his lackluster performances since joining the Spanish club

Eden Hazard scored his first league goal for Real Madrid in a 4-2 win over Granada on Saturday. (Reuters)

Eden Hazard scored his first league goal for Real Madrid in a 4-2 win over Granada on Saturday to answer criticism of his lackluster performances since joining the club. Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, and James Rodriguez also scored for league leader Madrid in the win over second-place Granada, the surprising southern Spain club back in the first division after two years.

Madrid, which arrived under pressure after a 2-2 home draw against Club Brugge in the Champions League, opened a four-point lead in the Spanish league over Granada and third-place Atletico Madrid, which visits Valladolid on Sunday. Fourth-place Barcelona, five points off the lead, hosts Sevilla on Sunday.

Madrid’s top signing since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, Hazard scored in a breakaway in first-half stoppage time. He sent his shot over Granada goalkeeper Rui Silva as defenders closed in.

Hazard arrived amid high expectations as Madrid paid Chelsea a reported fee of 100 million euros (now $110 million) plus add-ons, making him the club’s most expensive signing ever.

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The Belgium playmaker scored in a preseason friendly but missed the start of the season because of a muscle injury and was yet to impress since he returned to action. Hazard was still far from his best on Saturday but got a loud ovation from the crowd after being replaced by Francisco “Isco” Alarcon in the 69th minute.

Benzema added to his great start to the season by opening the scoring two minutes into the match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium with a shot from close range after a pass by Gareth Bale. It Benzema’s sixth goal in seven league matches.

Modric, who replaced Toni Kroos before halftime, gave Madrid a 3-0 lead with a booming shot from outside the area in the 61st, hitting the top corner after a pass by Hazard.

Granada started a comeback with a penalty converted by Darwin Machis in the 69th after Madrid goalkeeper Alphonse Areola lost control of the ball inside the area. The visitors pulled closer with a goal by Domingos Duarte off a corner kick in the 78th, but Madrid sealed the win with a stoppage-time goal by substitute Rodriguez following a counterattack.

Granada, which spent the last two seasons in the second division, was coming off its best start ever in the league, with four wins in its first seven matches. Its only loss had been against Sevilla in the second round, and it defeated two-time defending champion Barcelona 2-0 at home in the fifth round.

Real Madrid was coming off two consecutive draws _ at Atletico Madrid in the league and against Club Brugge in the Champions League group stage. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who was replaced at halftime against Club Brugge with what the club said was a stomach problem, couldn’t start on Saturday.

Earlier, Levante won 2-1 at last-place Leganes, the only team yet to win a league game this season. Levante took the lead with goals by Roger Marti and Jose Gomez Campana. Danish striker Martin Braithwaite pulled hosts Leganes closer with a goal in the 76th, but less than five minutes later he missed a penalty kick.