Real Madrid began life without Julen Lopetegui with a comfortable 4-0 win over third-division club Melilla in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

By Associated Press
October 31, 2018

MADRID (AP) – Real Madrid began life without Julen Lopetegui with a comfortable 4-0 win over third-division club Melilla in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

Interim coach Santiago Solari was on the bench as Madrid cruised with goals from Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio, Alvaro Odriozola and Cristo Gonzalez in a match played in Spain's small enclave in Africa.

The second leg of the round-of-32 series will be played in December at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

It was Madrid's first game since Lopetegui was sacked on Monday, a day after the team was crushed 5-1 by Barcelona at Camp Nou Stadium for its fifth loss in seven matches in all competitions.

Benzema scored his sixth goal of the season from close range after a low pass by Odriozola in the 28th minute, and Asensio added to the lead with a one-timer from near the penalty spot after a nice set up by youngster Vinicius Junior on the final play of a rainy first half. Vinicius Junior helped set up Odriozola's 79th-minute goal, his first with the club. Odriozola then made the cross for the injury-time goal by Gonzalez, also his first with the main squad.

Benzema was one of the few regular starters on the team, along with captain Sergio Ramos and goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Benzema and Ramos played only the first half, being replaced by Federico Valverde and Nacho Fernandez, respectively.

Solari, who hasn't been ruled out as a permanent replacement for Lopetegui, pleased fans in his debut by including Vinicius Junior in the lineup. Lopetegui had seldom used the 18-year-old Brazilian forward who arrived amid high expectations in the summer but had played mostly in the ''B'' squad.

One of the best players in the match, Vinicius Junior nearly scored in the 72nd minute with a powerful shot that struck the crossbar.

Solari, who had been coaching Madrid's B team, is a former Argentina midfielder who played for Madrid in the early 2000s. He helped the team win the 2002 Champions League, being involved in the play that led to Zinedine Zidane's superb winner in the final.

Among the other possible candidates to replace Lopetegui are former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and Belgium manager Roberto Martinez.

Four-time defending Copa del Rey champion Barcelona starts its campaign at third-tier club Cultural Leonesa later on Wednesday.

Atletico Madrid defeated fourth-division club Sant Andreu 1-0 on Tuesday.

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