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Ancelotti: “The Athletic fans’ ovation for Benzema was fantastic and deserved”

Delighted with the performance of the backups.

Athletic Club v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Real Madrid earned one of their toughest victories of the 2021/22 season on Wednesday night, with a makeshift XI turning Karim Benzema’s two early goals into a 2-1 victory over Athletic Club. Carlo Ancelotti was delighted with the result, but especially with the performance. In his post-match press conference, he explained: “The win means a lot for us because we had a great performance with a line-up of players that weren’t used to playing. Nacho, Lucas, Camavinga, Valverde and Hazard hadn’t played much of late, but they all played really well and showed commitment. This is really important for me, almost as important as the three points themselves.”

Asked to analyse the first half of the season as a whole, he said: “We have done things really well so far. The players have been great. But, we need to make evaluations at the end of the season. We still need to see if we’ll win something. For now, we take a deserved week to rest and we’ll return next year.”

Ancelotti on making more rotations

It was put to Ancelotti that he might want to consider rotating his line-up more, given how so many usual backups stepped up. To that, the Italian replied: “[Chuckles]. I told them at the end of that it’s very difficult for me to leave them on the bench. What I try to do is to always put out the best team to try to win the match.”

Ancelotti on Hazard’s performance

Eden Hazard played again and was impactful again, so Ancelotti was asked if he feels the Belgian is well and truly back. He responded: “He played better in this game and he fought well, trying things. He has returned. I agree. With Vinícius and Hazard, they understand what the team needs defensively and proved that today, while they also showed quality in attack, especially at the start.”

Ancelotti on the Athletic fans’ ovation for Benzema

Benzema’s two early goals were so special that he was treated to a standing ovation from the home crowd when substituted off in the final minutes. On that, Ancelotti said: “That was fantastic. This is a stadium with a spectacular atmosphere. It’s a true football stadium and Karim deserved that [ovation].”