Real Madrid began the post-Casemiro era with an awkward 4-1 victory over Celta Vigo on Saturday evening.
The visitors faced plenty of pressure and conceded a lot of possession but flexed their quality on the counter and ran away with proceedings thanks to goals from Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and Federico Valverde.
Oscar Rodriguez sent a tame free-kick Thibaut Courtois' way to kick things off, before Valverde responded with a long-range effort that went soaring over the Celta bar.
Celta had a bright start but their momentum stalled 11 minutes in when VAR helped the referee award Real a penalty for a handball from Renato Tapia, and up stepped Benzema to slot home from 12 yards to open his account for the season.
The goal gave Real the confidence to try and exert their control but the hosts were evidently not intimidated and tried to play their way around the European champions, and they earned a penalty of their own 22 minutes in as Eder Militao was caught handling the ball as well. Up stepped Iago Aspas, who narrowly beat Thibaut Courtois to tie things up.
Buoyed by the equaliser, Celta continued to trouble Real and Franco Cervi came perilously close to putting the hosts ahead with a fierce strike from range that whistled wide of Courtois' goal.
Real looked like they needed a moment of magic to regain control of this game and they got that from the wizard that is Luka Modric. His gorgeous curled strike from the edge of the D was inch-perfect and nestled into the corner of the net to put Los Blancos ahead on the scoresheet, but not the possession battle, at the break.
Celta were similarly as adventurous to start the second half and Goncalo Paciencia narrowly missed the chance to tie things up, dragging a fierce effort wide.
In the blink of an eye, Real were 3-1 up. Celta failed with a handball appeal at one end, and three passes later, Vinicius was one-on-one with Agustin Marchesin. He rounded the goalkeeper and slotted into an empty net to create some breathing room for his side.
Joseph Aidoo spurned an excellent chance to head a goal back shortly after the hour mark, and Celta's profligacy was again punished immediately as Valverde, who had struggled massively until this point, slotted home on the counter with 25 minutes to go.
With five minutes left on the clock, another Real counter nearly led to a goal. Benzema won a penalty after being tripped in the box, but he gave the ball over to substitute Eden Hazard, who saw his effort well saved by the goalkeeper.
When all was said and done, the two sides were nearly even in terms of possession and shots on goal, but Real's ruthless efficiency proved the difference.
Real Madrid player ratings vs Celta Vigo
Real Madrid (4-3-3)
GK: Thibaut Courtois - 6/10 - Didn't have a whole lot to do. Even went the right way for the penalty. Unlucky.
RB: Dani Carvajal - 5/10 - Had a really tough time up against Galan. Didn't have the legs to keep up.
CB: Eder Militao - 4/10 - Struggled against Paciencia's physicality and was at fault for the penalty. Another off night.
CB: David Alaba - 6/10 - Solid at the back and even grabbed an assist on one of his forays forward. Can't help but feel he would be more impactful at left-back.
LB: Ferland Mendy - 5/10 - Doesn't have the creativity needed to link up with Vinicius and Benzema.
DM: Aurelien Tchouameni - 7/10 - Good play defensively. Swept up a lot of danger and inspired confidence heading into the new era. Nice and strong for the fourth goal. Still needs to work on his passing.
CM: Luka Modric - 7/10 - Not as impactful as usual but still flashed his class with an unreal goal and a glorious assist.
CM: Eduardo Camavinga - 7/10 - Effortlessly buzzed around the pitch to get involved at both ends. Has a great bond with Tchouameni already.
RW: Federico Valverde - 5/10 - Really awful in the first half. Guilty of one of the worst free kicks of all time. Turned things around impressively after the break but can't get a high rating because of his woeful first 45.
ST: Karim Benzema - 6/10 - Took his penalty well but wasn't as involved as usual. Some excellent pressing, however.
LW: Vinicius Junior - 7/10 - Brought out all the flicks and tricks to try and get Real going here. Ran into cul-de-sacs occasionally but clearly needed more support from his left-back to deal with the double-teams.
SUB: Antonio Rudiger (69' for Carvajal) - 6/10
SUB: Lucas Vazquez (77' for Alaba) - N/A
SUB: Dani Ceballos (77' for Modric) - N/A
SUB: Eden Hazard (82' for Vinicius Junior) - N/A
SUB: Marco Asensio (82' for Camavinga) - N/A
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti - 4/10 - Didn't seem to have a game plan. Was uncharacteristically animated from start to finish, clearly concerned about what he was watching. Hard to feel as though he played any part in this victory.