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 yesterday, spoiling the Bundesliga side’s Champions League debut.
The match in Madrid looked like it was heading for a draw when 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 per cent record this campaign, earning them a sixth straight win.
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, with the Italian manager bringing 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 October 3 while Real visit Italian champions Napoli.
In the other Group C game, a late own goal by Sporting Braga defender Sikou Niakate handed Italian champions Napoli a 2-1 away win in an entertaining clash.
In a game of many missed chances, Napoli took the lead in first-half stoppage time through captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo after striker Victor Osimhen nodded the ball away from goal and the Italy defender seized his chance to bounce it in off the bar.
Braga, who are in the Champions League for the third time and the first in 11 seasons, stepped up their game following the break and forward Bruma equalised in the 84th minute with a header from a perfect cross by substitute Rodrigo Zalazar.
But four minutes later Niakate sealed the win for the visitors with an unfortunate intervention, netting a pass by Piotr Zielinski from close range with his first touch.
In San Sebastian, Spain, Lautaro Martinez’s late goal salvaged a 1-1 draw for runners-up Inter Milan at Real Sociedad as they kicked off their Champions League campaign.
The Basque team looked the more dominant side for most of the game and the Serie A leaders will be grateful for their rivals’ misses in front of goal after a performance far from their unbeaten league run.
The hosts’ early high pressing paid off after just four minutes when Brais Mendez stole the ball on the edge of the Inter box to fire into the bottom right corner and make it 1-0.
Inter began to threaten their opponents’ area until the final stretch of the match but could not equalise until Martinez finally scored in the 87th minute.
In Group D, Inter and Real are below RB Salzburg, who won 2-0 at Benfica, with the Portuguese champions being hampered by an early red card for Antonio Silva.