Athletic Bilbao 0-2 Real Madrid (Benzema & Kroos). A win in Bilbao. Here is the reaction to the victory. On the way: Player ratings, presser highlights and the podcast.
When you are trying to get yourselves out of a rut, a trip to Athletic Bilbao is never ideal - but Real Madrid would have to switch on and start regaining points in places like this if they wanted to be serious about the La Liga title race. The starting team was jigged around nicely, as the impressive Dani Ceballos came in to start after shining last time out in the cup. Eduardo Camavinga joined him in midfield alongside Fede Valverde. Marco Asensio got the nod in attack, with Nacho Fernández getting minutes at the other end of the pitch in defence. Karim Benzema captained the team for this one.
Karim Benzema got things going for Madrid when he he shot over the bar after being given a glorious chance by Ferland Mendy. Bilbao then had a go when Thibaut Courtois had to save a headed attempt at goal well. Iñaki Willaims then made his way towards goal before shooting wide as the hosts looked dangerous. Benzema was there to lift his side, as Marco Asensio added one of the stranger assists he’ll get to his collection - as his backwards header was converted by the Frenchman with a fabulous first time finish on his left. The half really dried up in Madrid’s favour after this as they became comfortable with the ball and shut down any Bilbao attacks. They didn’t create anything more themselves, but this did allow them to enter the break 1-0 up.
The slow pace of the game carried on into the start of the first half, but things soon picked up. Nacho Fernández did tremendously well to put a foot in a stop a dangerous Bilbao attack just as the player was about to pull the trigger. At the other end Benzema slipped Marco Asensio through but he could only aim his shot the wrong side of the far post. Nico Williams then missed a big chance for Athletic, dragging his shot way wide from close range. His brother Iñaki did manage to beat Courtois, but the view of the goalkeeper was impaired by two players in an offside position in the eyes of the officials. Bilbao were getting closer and closer to that equaliser as we entered the final ten minutes - and they could haven gotten it if their players were more alert to the bouncing ball flying around the box from a corner kick. Madrid put the tension and the game to bed when they scored their second late on after Rodrygo Goes set up Toni Kroos to score an accurate shot from the edge of the box. Both players had come on as substitutes earlier in the game. The game ended 2-0 to Real Madrid. What were your thoughts on the performance?