With Barcelona still to play this weekend, Real Madrid went 5 points clear in a massive league victory. It was the physical match that many expected, as the San Mames crowd riled up the hosts, but ultimately Real Madrid triumphed through an inspired performance by Casemiro.
✅ #RMLiga#RealMadrid 1⃣1⃣ @AthleticClub#RMMovistar #HalaMadrid pic.twitter.com/s17GvEsPBh— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadridfra) March 18, 2017
With the exception of Nacho, Real Madrid fielded their first choice XI in the crucial away match. Ronaldo tried to make things happen early, but unfortunately had a shot saved and was then called offside on a separate occasion. The opener came from Karim Benzema after Casemiro lofted a ball over the defense to Ronaldo, who put the opener on a platter for the Frenchman. Midway through the second half Bilbao equalized after poor defending from Real Madrid. Nacho was beaten in the air, and Aduriz headed home. But Real Madrid answered immediately. Not even 3 minutes later Casemiro scored after atrocious defending from Bilbao. Los Blancos hung on to secure the 3 points, and put pressure on Barcelona ahead of their match with Valencia.
Keylor Navas: 7
Great response by the Costa Rican. Looked confident and did well against some potentially tricky shots.
Defensively a mess, as Inaki Williams beat him multiple times. In attack, however, another excellent performance. Combined well with Benzema to set up a chance that finally fell to the left back before he skied it over the goal. The Brazilian must be better as difficult fixtures loom.
Sergio Ramos: 6.5
Did well against the aerial bombardment from Bilbao, but left Aduriz free to head in the equalizer. Was solid otherwise, and did well in possession.
Nacho Fernandez: 7
The most consistent Madridista from the 2016-2017 season put in yet another excellent performance. Played a part in giving up the equalizer, but did well throughout despite being slightly undersized.
Dani Carvajal: 7
Played a more defensive role during the match. Made an excellent run to set up Ronaldo, but the latter was offside.
The driving force behind today’s victory. Combative in a match that desperately needed a physical presence. Put up absurd defensive statistics, including 4 interceptions, 4 clearances, and 8 successful tackles.
Casemiro completed 24 ball recoveries today! pic.twitter.com/B47rBCIHGP— RMadrid Edition (@RMadridEdition) March 18, 2017
Lucky to avoid a yellow so long into the match, but better he received the suspension for accumulation now then during the key upcoming fixtures.
Toni Kroos: 7.5
Crucial set piece deliveries again, including the ball that Ronaldo flicked on to Casemiro for the winner. Distributed the ball well, and showed he wasn’t intimidated by Bilbao’s physicality.
Luka Modric: 6.5
Careful in possession, but the Croation looks fatigued. Subbed off with half an hour remaining. Time for Kovacic to see more minutes.
Cristiano Ronaldo: 8
If anyone says 'BBC' doesn't work hard' to me after this game.. Especially Ronaldo. He's been everywhere without the ball.— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) March 18, 2017
Thought he had scored the opener before being called offside. Assisted both goals as he continues to prove how crucial he can be even while not scoring. Worked hard in possession before being subbed off for Isco when Zidane sought a more defensively solid structure.
Karim Benzema: 8
Another solid performance from the Frenchman. Was excellent with his linkup play as always, and constantly worked to create for his teammates.
@OmVArvind Benz's well-timed deep movements have been crucial in helping Madrid circulate the ball forwards. pic.twitter.com/VetjLxzyKh— O.Dembélé fanboy (@OmVArvind) March 18, 2017
Scored the opener after a brilliant cross from Ronaldo. Karim is beginning to hit his best form at the perfect time, which spells big trouble for Madrid’s opponents.
Gareth Bale: 5.5
Not the performance we’ve come to expect from Bale. Did not contribute much in attack, but helped keep the flanks secure in defense.
Lucas Vazquez (Substitute): 6.5
Surprisingly came on for Luka Modric with half an hour to play when Zidane switched to a 4-4-2. Defended the right wing well, winning 4 tackles in his short time on the pitch.
Isco (Substitute): 6
Subbed on for Ronaldo with 10 minutes remaining but was unable to make much of an impact.
Morata (Substitute): 6
Had little to no time to effect the match.
Man of the Match: Casemiro
Casemiro was immense in the 2nd half. Forget the goal, can't count how many times he stopped Athletic attacks single-handedly.— O.Dembélé fanboy (@OmVArvind) March 18, 2017