By Jonathan Jurejko BBC Sport

European champions Real Madrid began their bid to take the Spanish title from neighbours Atletico Madrid with a nervy opening La Liga win over Cordoba.

New signings James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos were named alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in a star-studded starting XI for Madrid.

The hosts outplayed the newly promoted side before half-time and led through Karim Benzema’s thumping header.

Cordoba improved but Ronaldo’s late strike from distance eased the tension.

A few whistles could be heard from the Bernabeu stands before the world player of the year drilled into the bottom corner in the final minute.

Madridistas have seen their team win La Liga just once in the last six seasons after finishing third behind Atletico and arch-rivals Barcelona in a thrilling title race last season.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men made amends by beating Atletico in the Champions League final as they were crowned European champions for a record 10th time, and responded to their league failure by spending over £100m on new players this summer.

The bulk of that lavish outlay was spent on World Cup winner Kroos and tournament top scorer Rodriguez, from Bayern Munich and Monaco respectively. However they lost to Atletico in the Spanish Super Cup last week.

Stat attack
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 30 goals from outside the area in La Liga since the 2009-10 season – more than any other player.
Karim Benzema scored his first headed goal in a La Liga game since March’s match against Barcelona.
Cordoba have lost all nine away league games against Real Madrid, conceding at least twice in eight of these defeats.

In contrast, Cordoba’s low-budget side – managed by ex-Barcelona and Chelsea defender Albert Ferrer – consisted largely of free transfers and loan signings. But the huge financial gulf between the two clubs was not always evident, particularly in the early part of the second half when Cordoba threatened to equalise.

Substitute Xisco, remembered by English fans for an unsuccessful spell at Newcastle, stuck the ball in the Madrid net from a rebound but turned to see his effort ruled out for offside.


And, despite a plucky effort by the visitors, it was ultimately Madrid’s extra attacking quality which proved the difference.

While Rodriguez, who joined for a fee rising to £71m, barely threatened before being substituted in the second half, Germany midfielder Kroos, a reported £24m signing, made a greater impact on his league debut.

He clipped in the corner which allowed France striker Benzema to climb highest inside a packed Cordoba penalty area and powerfully nod in from eight yards.

That looked set to be the only goal until Ronaldo’s speculative effort ended Cordoba’s hopes in their first Spanish top-flight game since 1972.



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