Real Madrid Stretch Lead Over Barcelona Thanks To Benzema, Casemiro

Real Madrid Stretch Lead Over Barcelona Thanks To Benzema, Casemiro
March 18 21:48 2017 Print This Article

Real Madrid moved five points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao.

Karim Benzema put the visitors in front after being set up by Cristiano Ronaldo on 24 minutes but Bilbao, who had previously lost only once at home all season, equalised through Aritz Aduriz just after the hour.

Real, though, were soon back in the lead when Casemiro tapped the ball in following a corner in the 68th minute as Zinedine Zidane’s men kept the pressure up on Barça, who host Valencia on Sunday.

The Wales forward Gareth Bale returned from his two-match suspension to join Benzema and Ronaldo in the Real frontline.

Bilbao were defending a formidable home record, having not lost at San Mames since a 1-0 defeat to Barcelona in August.

It was a positive start from Los Leones, who tested the Madrid keeper, Keylor Navas, with high balls into the penalty area.

Real thought they had taken the lead through Ronaldo on nine minutes but the Portugal forward was flagged offside after tapping in a scuffed cross from the defender Dani Carvajal.

The home side then went close when the defender Yeray, who is in recovery after being diagnosed with testicular cancer before Christmas, stabbed the ball wide from close range after Raul Garcia’s knockdown following a deep free-kick.

At the other end the Real captain, Sergio Ramos, sent a diving header off target at the far post after a free-kick was whipped through the Bilbao box from the right by Toni Kroos.

Real eventually took the lead when Ronaldo beat the offside trap to latch on to a chipped pass down the left by Kroos, before clipping the ball back across the penalty area, where Benzema arrived to dispatch a first-time shot low into the bottom right corner.

It was almost quickly 2-0 as Bale stung the palms of the Bilbao keeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The referee then had to deal with a flashpoint as Garcia and Ramos squared up, with the Bilbao forward Aduriz and Carvajal also getting involved before calm was restored and a couple of cautions handed out. Benzema failed to convert Marcelo’s cross as Real finished the first half on top.

After the end-to-end action of the opening 45 minutes the tempo dropped at the start of the second half. The Real keeper, Navas, was eventually called into action just after the hour when he got down smartly to palm away Iñaki Williams’ low shot from close range.

But the equaliser came on 65 minutes. Williams was this time the creator, as he stood up a deep cross from the right through the Real penalty area to the back post where Garcia nodded it into the six-yard box and Aduriz headed in.

Real, however, were back in front within three minutes. A corner from the right was flicked on at the near post by Ronaldo and Casemiro was left unmarked to slot the ball into the net from a yard out.

Marcelo hacked the ball over from close range and Navas blocked Williams’ angled effort as Real closed out victory to remain in control at the top of La Liga.

[Guardian UK]

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