Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Real Madrid (Nacho) Here is my immediate reaction. On the way: The player ratings, post match quotes and the ManagingMadrid podcast!
Real Madrid did what they needed to do, but this might still be the game that the title got away from them as Atletico Madrid pulled off a comeback victory in their game against Osasuna.
Zidane brought Castilla starlets Miguel Gutierrez and Antonio Blanco with the squad and started Miguel over Marcelo after an impressive performance against Granada on Thursday. The young full back continued to impress from his game earlier this week and was involved early on in winning the ball high up.
There were precious little chances in the first half with Real Madrid failing to register even a shot on target, however, Los Blancos would still feel aggrieved not to have been ahead after Ordizola’s cross deflected off the arm of an Athletic Bilbao defender early in the first half. There was another, softer, penalty shot later in the game when Benzema challenged for a high ball and appeared to be taken down in the box by a falling Athletic Club defender.
Outside of that, the game was pretty dull with the closest either side coming to goal being through Iker Munian whose free kick narrowly missing the corner of Thibaut Courtois’s goal.
Real Madrid started the second half a bit brighter, Militao getting up for a corner well but couldn’t direct the ball on target. It was then Athletic Bilbao turn to force a scare, forcing a save out of Courtois at his near post.
All three title deciding games were level midway through the second half and it seemed that those on the pitch in San Mames were instinctively aware of the oppurtunity that such a scoreline was offering them. Real continued to push bodies forward and started producing half chances. Modric long shot was deflected behind for a corner and Madrid once again threatened from a set piece. Minutes later, Casemiro hit the crossbar with the ball ending up down the other end with Militao slapping away a potential tap in for the hosts. Real continued to produce half chances from crosses, however, it seemed that if the goal was to come from anywhere, it would be a corner.
Finally, in the 68th minute, the goal arrived. Once again from a corner, Rordygo took the ball down and pivoted the ball into Casemiro who found Nacho open at the far post. The Spanish defender produced a classic defender finish with his knees.
Madrid spent final minutes largely camped in their own half and protecting their lead. Their cause was helped by Raul Garcia dismissal with three minutes to go, ironically at the same time that Atletico Madrid completed their comeback against Osasuna.
The title race will now go down to the final day with Real Madrid playing Villarreal and Atletico Madrid facing a Valladolid who just lost Real Sociedad 4-1.