Hazard finally makes his Real Madrid mark as Zidane's patience pays off
Eden Hazard has finally arrived at Real Madrid. The reported €100million signing opened his goalscoring account and got an assist on Saturday, helping unconvincing Los Blancos see off Granada 4-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Having played five matches before the visit of Diego Martinez's men and with only a yellow card to show for his efforts, pundits had been quick to point out the Belgium international's stuttering form.
There is no doubt Hazard's hamstring injury in August played a significant role in disrupting his start to life in Madrid, preventing him from playing the first few weeks of the season.
Yet, for all the understanding from some, Hazard had become a key conversation topic around the club, with questions dominating Zidane's news conferences.
To Zidane's credit, he had been quick to back Hazard – perhaps learning from his treatment of Gareth Bale – and even suggested there were parallels to his own start at the Bernabeu.
"I know [Hazard] is going to succeed here," Zidane said before Madrid were held to a 2-2 draw against Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday.
"The same thing happened to me, this is why I'm very calm, I knew things would work out for me in time and it's the same with Hazard."
While Zidane is probably bending the truth with respect to his own start, having scored three times by the end of September in his first season at the club, it was a comment made to buy Hazard a little extra time – after all, Madrid's fans are infamous for their lack of patience.
Having again been underwhelming against Brugge, making just one key pass, Hazard still initially appeared rusty in the visit of Granada – allowing a defender the chance to get a foot in and tackle him when well placed to cut a ball back into the danger zone.
But in the 42nd minute a low cross almost found Bale, who wanted a penalty for an apparent foul by Carlos Neva, suggesting the Belgian was settling into the contest.
And his next involvement in stoppage time saw Hazard make the sort of impact he did so regularly with Chelsea, racing on to a throughball and nonchalantly lobbing Rui Silva to make it 2-0, adding to Karim Benzema's opener.
The relief on his face was soon replaced by unbridled joy – Sergio Ramos' reaction seeming to say, "About time!".
He followed that up in the second half with an assist, going on a mazy run on the left flank, before cutting back inside and teeing up Luka Modric, having drawn several defenders in.
Modric subsequently unleashed a ferocious strike into the top-left corner from 30 yards, taking full advantage of the space made for him.
No one will attempt to claim Hazard is back to his best on the back of this match – after all, he was generally quiet in the first half and he only got an assist because of Modric's excellence.
But after a sequence of below-par performances in which he offered precious little, Hazard has at least shown hints of his brilliance in a Madrid shirt for the first time.
And given Madrid's rather fragile mentality – as evidenced by the performances against Brugge, Levante, Real Valladolid and now Granada, who fought back from three goals down before James Rodriguez struck late on – Zidane needs Hazard in full stride as soon as possible.