After finally breaking the tie-streak last week, Real Madrid followed up with a late match winner from Alvaro Morata. More importantly, they now top the table once again.
What a day for Real Madrid. Early in the day, la liga leaders Atletico Madrid saw themselves go from 1st to 5th in just 24 hours. With only a 1 point difference from Barcelona, the goal was set: Today’s match vs Athletic Bilbao had to end in a win.
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The Match Begins
The match started well. After a rough couple of minutes, Real Madrid began to dominate. Seven minutes in, Isco got the ball deep in the box and managed to provide an assist for Benzema. It almost seemed too easy.
Marcelo switched play from left to right, leaving Isco alone to run down the right side of the box. Left-back Enric Saborit managed to steal the ball from him, but Isco was determined to keep possession. He managed to slip at the crucial moment, which allowed him to re-take the ball. He cut the ball back to Benzema, who finished it perfectly. This was the first time since May that Benzema scored at home in the Bernabeu.
The score is now Real Madrid 1-0 Athletic Bilbao
The match went on 20 minutes. Both teams seemed determined to either expand their lead or come back and steal the match. Cristiano Ronaldo tried to get in a long shot a couple of times, while Bale headed one over the top. Athletic refused to give up though. Sabin headed a cross in the 17th minute, only to see it go over the bar.
It wasn’t until the 27th minute that Athletic Bilbao would draw level. Three of Real Madrid’s back line failed to contain Athletic Bilbao’s build play. Then, in a strange turn of events, Athletic managed to score in a similar fashion as Los Blancos had done 20 minutes prior. Javier Eraso placed a pass to Sabin, who fired it past Keylor Navas.
The Score: Real Madrid 1-1 Athletic Bilbao
The rest of the first half was filled with missed attempts. Marcelo attempted a pass for Ronaldo which Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao) managed to get a touch on in the 38th minute.
Ronaldo then wasted a great chance just before half-time, which was a recurring thing this match. He ran into the box but couldn’t decide whether to pass or shoot. By the time he decided to shoot, he shot straight at Iraizoz.
The second half brought much of the same. Bale tried to win a penalty, to no avail. He went shoulder to shoulder with Lekue as the second half began, and let himself fall in the box.
Athletic Bilbao also had their fair share of chances. Real’s defence looked shaky throughout the match. Williams had a chance in the 52nd minute after they failed to clear a ball. Williams sped through them, but saw his shot go over the bar.
Then, one of the stranger decisions of the match was made: Zinedine Zidane decided to bring on Vasquez in the place of Isco 65 minutes in. The audience didn’t take to well to the decision, as they booed the manager. Afterall, Isco had arguably been their best player so far. He assisted the opening goal and had put in a good effort throughout the match.
Ten minutes later, Alvaro Morata was subbed in for Benzema. It seemed fitting that today would be his day to shine. Today was his birthday, and what better way to celebrate it than scoring the match winner, right?
He had his chance minutes after coming on. Both Vasquez and himself made it past the defense. Vasquez had the opportunity to shoot, but decided to try and pass it to Morata. Morata was too close to the keeper and saw the ball bounce off him. Weirdly enough, a standard clearance went wrong and almost ended in an auto goal against Athletic Bilbao.
But in the 84th minute, Morata had his golden opportunity. Bale crossed (or maybe shot. Who knows) the ball in from the left and saw it go straight to the keeper, who couldn’t control it. The ball landed at Morata’s feet. The perfect gift. Morata didn’t waste the opportunity and tapped it in, giving the lead to Los Blancos.
Real Madrid 2-1 Athletic Bilbao
Athletic Bilbao had one final surprise up their sleeve. Varane almost gifted Athletic an equaliser. He tried to pass back to Navas, but didn’t put enough power behind the pass. Williams came running through and took the ball just feet from the goal. Luckily Navas managed to make the stop with a breathtaking save.
Finally, in the 94th minute, we had the perfect summary of Cristiano Ronaldo’s night. For the final time, he had the opportunity placed at his feet but failed to score. He found himself alone, going for a one on one situation with the keeper. Alvaro Morata ran to his left, giving him the alternative of setting up an assist, and the keeper almost gave up. The keeper stopped rushing him, almost as if he had accepted his fate, but Ronaldo shot it right at him.