Real Madrid battled their way to a 2-1 win against Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Saturday.
The capital outfit extended their lead over second-placed Barcelona to five points as they secured a hard fought victory over Atheltic Bilbao in La Liga at the San Mames Stadium on Saturday.
Karim Benzema was the cream of the crop for Real Madrid and scored the first goal of the contest to give his side a crucial a lead, but Los Blancos were pegged back when Aritz Aduriz scored courtesy of a pass from Raul Garcia.
However, there was still some drama to unfold as Brazilian midfielder Casemiro scored an unlikely goal to secure the win for his side and give them a key five-point cushion over Barcelona.
Here are the talking points:
Real’s French forward Karim Benzema was unarguably the best performer on the field and due to his prolific work-rate, he deserved to end up on the winning side. Had it not been for Casemiro’s late goal, Benzema’s performance would have gone in vain. Fortunately for him, that’s not what happened.
Not particularly recognised for his defensive contributions, the Real attacker did an exceptional job to be his side’s first line of defence. He pressed from the front from the opening whistle, and looked tireless until the end of the game.
He did a fantastic job to recover loose balls from both flanks and rarely did he show signs of slowing down. He was also nearly seamless with his distribution as 92 percent of his passes reached the intended target.
Benzema also drifted out wide and was an auxiliary winger at times, whipping in crosses every now and then, with the likes of Ronaldo and co. hoping to get on the end of them. 24 of 26 of the Frenchman’s attempted deliveries found a teammate, which showed exactly how important his contribution to the team was.
Inaki Williams showed the world why he’s among Europe’s hottest prospects
Bilbao forward Inaki Williams is one of Europe’s hottest prospects as he is being extensively scouted by a number of top sides. The likes of Liverpool, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund have been linked with a move for him, and his performance against the La Liga leaders showed exactly why he is in demand.
He was constantly on the toes of Real left-back Marcelo and gave him a horrendous time with a bid to keep up with his speed and agility. He created a number of chances for his teammates and almost grabbed a goal for himself as well.
With his showings continuing to improve with every passing game, it is growing increasingly difficult for Bilbao to keep hold of the player, given the quality of the club’s interested in luring him away.
In September, Real manager Zinedine Zidane brought off Cristiano Ronaldo during his side’s 2-2 draw against Las Palmas, which saw plenty of criticism comes his way. The Portugal international, too, was left disgusted with Zidane’s decision, and it was more of the same on Saturday.
The former France captain decided to withdraw Ronaldo in the second half against Bilbao, which saw the Portuguese make an irritated face while walking off the field. Spanish media outlet AS reported that the Real star expressed his frustration by using abusive language hinted towards the manager.
Real need to improve their defensive work
Real Madrid appear to get the job done, but often have to rely on luck and inspiration from the blue to secure the win. Offensively, they do not seem to have any issues and are appearing to cope with the temporary absence of Gareth Bale through suspension.
However, things are a lot different on the defensive front. Real defences of yesteryear evoked a certain confidence and solidity, but of late, they appear to be looking frail and as likely to concede as they are to keep out the opposition threat.
Probably age is catching up with the defenders, and Zidane could hop into the transfer window to sign one or two defensive prospects for the future or he could turn to the academy and give them some playing time off the bench before the season draws to its close.
Casemiro becomes unlikely hero
Brazilian midfield destroyer Casemiro isn’t particularly known for his goal-scoring prowess, but he found the back of the net when it most mattered to seal the deal for Real Madrid. Apart from that, he bossed the midfield with aplomb and was instrumental to ensuring ,that his side were not left exposed at the back.
Teammate Marcelo took a few leaps ahead and termed his Brazilian counterpart as the best midfielder in the world in an interview with beIN Sports (h/t Goal). Zidane will be impressed at the improvement the 25-year-old has shown since he took over, and will hope that he continues to impress for the Spanish side.