Real Madrid: Eden Hazard delivered under pressure

Real Madrid, Eden Hazard (Photo by Alejandro/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Eden Hazard (Photo by Alejandro/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /

After invisible performances in cup losses to Athletic Club and Alcoyano, Real Madrid star man Eden Hazard showed his class with two marvelous moments in a dominant 4-1 win over Deportivo Alaves at the Mendizorroza this weekend.

With a price tag of 100 million euros and no star signings since his unveiling at the Santiago Bernabeu, Hazard has faced more pressure than any other Madrid player. Everyone in the starting XI is under immense pressure to perform, yes, but the expectations for Hazard are naturally going to be higher. Whereas the other stars, such as Karim Benzema and Luka Modric, have earned credibility with fans from their repeat Champions League titles, Hazard is an outsider. And Hazard, of course, commanded a sky-high transfer fee.

When healthy, Hazard has shown that he can be worth the money for Los Blancos. It’s easy for some fans to forget, particularly since Hazard has missed so many games, but he was instrumental in some matches for Real Madrid even in 2020-2021. Hazard was great in both wins against Inter Milan, led the club to a four-goal haul against Huesca, and helped turn the tide as a substitute at Borussia Monchengladbach.

At the same time, he had just as many anonymous performances, and Madridistas were not about to accept mediocrity from a player they had seen light up the Premier League for the better half of a decade.

Eden Hazard is one of Real Madrid’s most efficient goal-scorers this season

Hazard wasn’t dominant on Saturday night at the Mendizorroza, but he was highly effective. He didn’t weave his way through defenders nor did he control the match. Instead, Real Madrid were conducted by the peerless midfield duo of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

So Hazard played a more clinical role. He scored his put-on-a-platter chance, courtesy of Kroos’ pressing and passing class, with aplomb after a first touch that will stand as one of the highlights of the season. And this was after he had his first assist of the season, flicking the ball subtly with the back of his heel to a waiting Karim Benzema.

For the second time this season, Hazard scored a goal in a 4-1 Madrid victory in which Benzema scored a brace. And Hazard’s goal was his third of the season.

Hazard faced so much criticism after the losses to Athletic Club and Alcoyano. Madridistas can be harsh, but they were fair in this case. Hazard was indeed poor in both of those losses and hadn’t really shown anything to fans worth praising since the most recent win over Inter.

Against Alaves, Hazard delivered. He reminded fans who quickly forgot his sterling performances in the Royal White kit by scoring and assisting, contributing goals that served as a statement from both himself and Real’s up-and-down attack.

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He cannot be satisfied with one game, because Madridistas surely will not. But quietly, Hazard is now third on the team in all competitions with 0.63 goals and assists per 90 minutes. He is second in goals per 90 with a goal every other full game, on average.

Whereas last season, he was criticized for not contributing goals, he has, in his few appearances, been clinical this season. After rising to the occasion on Matchday 20, Madridistas will watch closely for his encore performances over what is now a critical stretch of matches for Los Blancos in a difficult title race with a resurgent Atletico Madrid.