Eden Hazard hadn’t started a match since August 7, when he was in the Real Madrid line-up to face Manchester City in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie, while his last goal came 392 days ago.
Yet he was back in the Real Madrid starting line-up against Huesca this Saturday and scored. It was a moment of relief and sporting beauty in equal measure.
Hazard received the ball from Luka Modric with his back to goal and used his body to protect the ball, before turning a defender to free up the space to fire a left-footed shot into the back of the net, with goalkeeper Andres Fernandez unable to do anything to stop the perfectly placed strike.
It was a goal worth celebrating, although Hazard didn’t necessarily show it as his face retained a stern look. Nor did his expression when his teammates arrived to congratulate him on a key goal and the reality is that inside Hazard’s head he knows this goal shouldn’t be news. But it is, since it’s only the second he has scored since arriving in the Spanish capital in July 2019.
Everything is different from Hazard’s first goal, scored back on October 5, 2019 against Granada. There are no fans in stadiums and the stadium is not the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, yet the Belgian will hope his Los Blancos career will now change.
Injuries ravaged his debut campaign with the Spanish giants, which was a series of rehabilitation periods, brief returns and ultimately, further setbacks.
He suffered an ankle injury on November 26, 2019, when his international teammate Thomas Meunier tackled him during a Champions League match against PSG. That aggravated an injury from 2017, when he had a titanium plate implanted there.
Even when he returned, he fell injured again and had to go for surgery in Dallas, while he wasn’t fully fit for the final stages of the 2019/20 LaLiga Santander campaign.
As such, Zinedine Zidane has been careful not to rush him back into action at the beginning of the 2020/21 campaign and, if this has helped get the Belgian international back to 100 percent fitness, then that can only be a good thing for Los Merengues moving forward.