Athletic Club 1-2 Real Madrid: Real Madrid’s dominance is rewarded
San Mamés is a ground that Rafa Benítez hadn’t previously enjoyed, but his Real Madrid side put on a show as they beat Athletic Club 2-1 to get the Spaniard’s first win at the ground in eight attempts.
Real Madrid began the game with a lot of confidence and, despite over €250 million worth of injuries (Bale, James, Danilo, and Sergio Ramos), their play was beginning to silence the raucous Basque crowd.
There were plenty of half-chances in the first half, but Real Madrid opened the deadlock nineteen minutes in.
After Gorka Iraizoz’s short goal-kick goes to Mikel San José, the former Liverpool midfielder passes back to his goalkeeper but Karim Benzema intercepted and finished calmly. San José was completely to blame, but it put Real Madrid 1-0 ahead.
Before the break, Real Madrid could have extended their lead through Benzema, Kroos and Kovačić following some great play. Aritz Aduriz did have a chance to level for Athletic, but Keylor Navas – who had a great game – pulled off a great save.
Real Madrid’s dominance continued after half-time. Twenty-one minutes in, though, Athletic equalised.
After Aymeric Laporte’s pass was not properly intercepted by Pepe, the ball ended up coming to Markel Susaeta on the right-wing and he put in a fantastic cross to the back post for Sabin Merino to head home for his first La Liga goal.
Three minutes later, it was 2-1 to Real Madrid.
Real Madrid’s passing was phenomenal at times and after a lengthy move, Luka Modrić played a fantastic ball around the corner to Isco, who was in acres of space, and the Spaniard put in a great cross for Benzema to get his second of the game.
Karim Benzema has started this season in fantastic fashion and has now scored in five consecutive games for the first time since 2011.
With only a few minutes to go, Raúl García’s header following a cross by Óscar de Marcos tested Navas, but the Costa Rican dealt with it brilliantly.
Rafa Benítez should feel very happy with the way that his side played tonight. Last season Real Madrid lost this game, and the season before that they drew 1-1. Tonight they have won, and after Celta’s shock win over Barcelona earlier, these could be three vital points come June.
Athletic Club 1-2 Real Madrid
Referee: Mateu Lahoz
Athletic Bilbao XI: Iraizoz; de Marcos, Etxeita, Laporte, Balenziaga; San José (71’), Beñat (84’), Raúl García; Susaeta (78’), Aduriz, Sabin Merino.
Subs: Mikel Rico (71’), Ibai Gómez (78’), Kike Sola (84’).
Goals: Sabin Merino (66’).
Yellow cards: Beñat (63’), de Marcos (65’), Gómez (80’), Raúl García (89’).
Real Madrid XI: Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo; Modrić, Kroos, Kovačić; Isco, Benzema (79’), Ronaldo.
Subs: Jesé (71’), Casemiro (79’), Lucas Vázquez (88’).
Goals: Benzema (19’, 69’).
Yellow cards: Ronaldo (51’), Pepe (56’), Kroos (77’).