Bellingham scores late as relentless Real spoil Union's Champions League debut

September 21, 2023 5:41 am

[Source: Reuters]

Jude Bellingham scored deep in added time as Real Madrid wore down a resilient Union Berlin to claim a 1-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu in their Group C opener this morning, spoiling the Bundesliga side’s Champions League debut.

The match in Madrid looked like it was heading for a draw until substitute Federico Valverde’s shot ricocheted off two players in Union’s crowded penalty area before falling to Bellingham, who turned it into the net for his sixth goal in six games this season.

The 94th-minute goal also ensured that Real kept up their 100% record this campaign, earning them a sixth straight win.

Article continues after advertisement

“I’m a confident lad but I really couldn’t have hoped for things to start as well as this in terms of goals,” said Bellingham, who was signed from Borussia Dortmund in June for 103 million euros ($109.94 million).

“We’ve played five in LaLiga, one in the Champions League and won all six so we can’t really complain about that.

“I think we dominated the match and created good chances so we deserved the win. I’m just so grateful to my team mates and the staff here who’ve done such a good job of integrating me.”

Real dominated possession in the first half but found it difficult to break down Union, who defended resolutely and were impressively marshalled at the back by veteran Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci — a summer signing from Juventus.

Real forward Joselu was lively from the start but missed two headed opportunities early in the match.

The 14-times champions made a fast start to the second half and Rodrygo twice went close to scoring the opener, having a shot saved by keeper Frederik Ronnow from close range before unleashing a thunderous volley that cannoned off the post.

Carlo Ancelotti’s team continued to turn the screw as the second half wore on with Union beginning to flag, and the Italian manager brought on Valverde and Toni Kroos.

Joselu, Antonio Rudiger and Rodrygo all missed late opportunities to score but just as Union appeared set for a surprise result, the German resistance was pierced when midfielder Bellingham scored on his Champions League debut for Real.

While the visitors will be bitterly disappointed to have conceded so late, they will take heart from their performance and believe they have a real chance to make it out of the group stage.

Union host Portugal’s Braga next on Oct. 3 while Real visit Italian champions Napoli.