However the match began well for Real Madrid as a quality Asier Illarramendi pass allowed Carvajal to pick out Benzema in the box and whose finish was well kept out by Etxeita. Bilbao were flying in to every challenge with determination as the home crowd kept up an electric atmosphere in their new stadium. Unfortunately for Madrid, they also began to control the tempo of the match. Toni Kroos did not have a very good outing and he and his midfield partners in Illarramendi and Isco were out-muscled in the middle of the pitch. Mikel Rico was especially good for Athletic as he carved out chances with his surging runs down the middle. Around the 26th minute Rico proceeded to whip in an excellent cross for Aduriz to thump home superbly. And just like that, Real Madrid lost the game.
Shortly after the goal Kroos picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on Iraola and Illarramendi soon followed him into referee's book. Although it must be said that after the goal Madrid managed to keep the ball better and restore their control in possession. None of that mattered though because they failed to create any clear chances and the BBC were unable to add any spark to the proceedings. Credit must go to the way Bilbao defended as they managed to bottle up Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale. You could tell they were low on confidence as right at the end of the match Marcelo managed to create a good opportunity for Benzema but he decided to cross the ball instead of taking on the shot himself. The constant crossing in attacking areas has become a worrying trend in recent games and this was another example of its ineffectiveness. The half ended without a single Real Madrid shot registered on target.
The second half began in a far more positive fashion and one would think that Carlo Ancelotti had some stern words for his players at half time. First, Ronaldo picked out Benzema with a good delivery that should have been a goal save for some heroic defending from Balenziaga. Almost immediately afterwards Ronaldo squandered a sitter of his own as a low Bale put in a low cross that the Portugese somehow failed to connect with. In the 58 minute Isco finally gave Madrid their first shot on target but it was comfortably saved by Iraizoz who hadn't been tested up to that point. That said, the Basque keeper then produced a quality save to deny Benzema just a few minutes later as Real Madrid really began to turn the screw and dominated both the tempo and the possession. Illarramendi was especially playing well and looked motivated.
Rapahel Varane rose well to meet a corner only to see his header fall wide of the upright. With 20 minutes left on the clock you could see the players began to et desperate and Ancelotti did not look pleased on the sidelines. He brought on Jesé for Illarramendi which made sense in a tactical sense but I think it should have been either Kroos or Isco to make way first. Iraizoz then produced another piece of magic to deny Ronaldo after Benzema had put him through on goal. Isco then too picked up a yellow card before Bilbao finally offered some offence in the second half. They hit the post courtesy of Aduriz once again and it must be said that he was deservedly man of the match. His aerial ability troubled Varane and Pepe all game long.
Five minutes from time Gareth Bale decided it would be fun to hit a strike from all of 45 yards. Incredibly what initially seemed like fun turned out to be astonishment as it cracked off the post. Iraizoz was stranded, rooted to the ground and with his first shot on goal Chicharito - who had replaced Benzema for the last 10 minutes yet again - could have scored the equaliser. Should have scored the equaliser. But inevitably he didn;t make any contact on the ball with his head and that was the last real chance that Los Blancos received. Another poor performance from a team that currently looks bereft of ideas and creativity against any decent team. Three points dropped and likely to be in first place no longer come Sunday afternoon.
Poll: Should Ancelotti be blamed for today's loss? RT: YES, FAV: NO— Managing Madrid (@managingmadrid) March 7, 2015