Real Madrid got their Champions League defence off to a winning start thanks to a comfortable victory over Roma.
The Spanish side, looking to win the tournament for the fourth year in a row, dominated but were frustrated until Isco curled home from 25 yards out at the end of the first half.
Gareth Bale added a second when he ran onto Luka Modric’s excellent through-ball and slotted home.
And Mariano Diaz curled home late on from 20 yards for a deserved third.
Last season’s semi-finalists Roma were second best throughout, although Cengiz Under forced a good diving save from Keylor Navas.
However, these two teams will both be favourites to progress from Group G, which also contains Czech side Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow. The Russian visitors came from 2-0 down to draw their opening game 2-2.
Real look good without familiar faces
Real Madrid are unbeaten in La Liga this season after the departures of boss Zinedine Zidane and their all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, who had scored or assisted exactly half their Champions League goals in his nine years at the club.
The departure of Ronaldo – the central focus of their play for years – to Juventus seems to have given some Real players a new freedom. Isco and Bale were among the players to take advantage of more responsibility, with Modric playing some sublime passes in midfield.
It took Julen Lopetegui’s side 17 shots before they scored through Isco’s wonderful free-kick, which he probably would not have been allowed to take next to Ronaldo last season.
Bale, who has now scored five goals in seven games this season, looked sharp and hit the woodwork before rifling his game-clinching goal across Robin Olsen into the far corner of the net.
Isco forced a good stop from close range from Olsen, who produced diving saves to deny Toni Kroos and Modric.
Second-half substitute Marco Asensio almost added a spectacular showboating third when he spun in the box to lose two defenders but his no-look shot was well saved by Olsen’s leg.
Edin Dzeko’s header was kept out by Navas, who was preferred to summer signing Thibaut Courtois in goal for Real.
And 25-year-old striker Mariano – in his first game since returning to the club from Lyon for £29.7m – struck late on to give Real a scoreline that reflected their dominance.
Isco’s first attempt – match stats
- Real have now scored at least once in each of their last 43 home Champions League games (W35 D6 L2) since a 2-0 loss to Barcelona in the 2010-11 semi-final – the longest ever run of its kind in the competition’s history.
- Roma have lost each of their last five away Champions League games, conceding 16 goals, their worst ever losing streak on their travels in the competition.
- Isco’s goal was the first ever direct free-kick shot he had taken in a Champions League match.
- Bale has scored three goals in his last two Champions League games for Real, as many as he had in his previous 27 combined for the club.
- He has been directly involved in 19 goals in 23 starts in Champions League group stage games (12 goals, 7 assists).
- Since the start of last season, no defender has been directly involved in more goals in the Champions League than Real Madrid left back Marcelo (eight – three goals, five assists).