Atletico lose first game of season; Hazard debuts for Madrid
Real Madrid's Karim Benzema shoots at goal during the La Liga match against Levante at Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday. - Reuters
Barcelona - Only one player in La Liga has more goals than Benzema so far. Villarreal striker Gerard Moreno took his league-leading tally to five after striking twice to help beat last-placed Leganes 3-0.
Spanish league leaders Atletico Madrid lost their first game of the season on Saturday, while Eden Hazard made his long-awaited debut for Real Madrid before both rivals face tough Champions League openers.
Atletico won the first three rounds until its attack failed at Real Sociedad, which dictated the game, the playmaking, and scored the opening goal through Norway midfielder Martin Odegaard in the 2-0 victory.
Hazard injured a thigh in pre-season, and the club-record signing from Chelsea missed Madrid's first three league matches. By the time he stepped onto the field to loud applause in the 60th minute at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Karim Benzema's double and another goal from Casemiro had given Madrid the advantage it needed to end a run of two straight draws and beat Levante 3-2.
"When he touches the ball he has his aim set on the goal, but what he needs now is to train more. He has only had four practice sessions with the team," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said of Hazard.
Madrid pulled to within one point of leader Atletico.
Athletic Bilbao also has eight points along with Madrid.
Madrid visit the Paris Saint-Germain of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in their first Champions League match on Wednesday, while Atletico hosts Cristano Ronaldo's Juventus.
The Italian champion eliminated Atletico from last year's round-of-16.
Barcelona hosts Valencia in Saturday's late Spanish league game.
With Spain forward Mikel Oyarzabal and Odegaard leading the way in San Sebastian, Sociedad showed much more verve, speed, and determination to possess the ball and attack Atletico in waves.
Odegaard, who is playing on loan from Real Madrid, put the hosts ahead in the 58th when he culminated a quick buildup by cutting across the area before firing a shot that deflected off Atletico's Stefan Savic and left goalkeeper Jan Oblak without a chance.
Usually so sure in goal, Oblak was at fault three minutes later when he fumbled a ball in the box and Nacho Monreal blasted it home in his debut with the Basque club. The ball smacked Oblak in the face before going in, leaving him in need of medical assistance.
Oblak was substituted by Antonio Adan even though he appeared to tell team doctors he was feeling fine.
Sociedad goalie Miguel Moya didn't have to intervene until the 75th, when he made an excellent reflex parry of Victor "Vitolo" Machin.
"Those of us up front lacked the poise we needed to find a way through. They deserved the win," Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez said. "Fortunately, we have an important game in three days, and if we change how we played today, we will be fine."
Benzema opened the scoring against Levante with a header in the 25th, and six minutes later a second after a slick pass from James Rodriguez.
The French striker has four goals in four rounds.
Levante got back into the match in the second half with strikes from Borja Mayoral and Gonzalo Melero. Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saved a powerful header in stoppage time to ensure the victory.
"All I can say about Benzema is that he keeps this up," Zidane said.
Only one player in La Liga has more goals than Benzema so far. Villarreal striker Gerard Moreno took his league-leading tally to five after striking twice to help beat last-placed Leganes 3-0.
Results on Saturday:
Real Madrid 3 (Benzema 25, 31, Casemiro 40) Levante 2 (Mayoral 49, Melero 75)
Leganes 0 Villarreal 3 (Gerard 26, 90+3, Silva 39-og)
Real Sociedad 2 (Odegaard 58, Monreal 61) Atletico Madrid 0