Immediate Reaction: Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Real Madrid

Athletic Bilbao 1-2 real Madrid (Benzema x2). Here’s the immediate reaction to the big win. Coming soon: the best parts of the press conference, player ratings, and post-game podcasts.

After a busy few days, Real Madrid found themselves with a side a bit depleted after Cadiz drew due to COVID-19, injuries and suspensions. Lucas Vázquez again at left-back, with Nacho Fernandez spread out in the middle to cover patient David Alaba. In the midfield, Eduardo Camavinga and Fede Valverde replaced suspended Casemiro and patient Luka Modric. Eden Hazard is back at the start once again with a hat-trick from captain Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr. Six young players took the bench to replace the remaining absentees. With rivals Sevilla, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid losing points again during the last round, this was another good opportunity to move forward in La Liga with Los Blancos.

Athletic Bilbao isn’t an easy ride away on a good day, so fans have been pleading with key individuals to rise to the task to avoid losing points for the second game in a row. Little did they realize that their key player Karim Benzema would come in well twice in the space of seven minutes. First he hit a kick the first time after some good play that netted a world goal – then he took advantage of a defensive blunder to avoid being offside and finish off the keeper. You would have thought that would make the match comfortable now, but within three minutes Bilbao was able to close the difference with a shot of his own. Not beyond Thibaut Courtois’ reach, but this ball effort from Oihan Sancet was perfect and slipped off the post. The back-and-forth has gone like a tennis match ever since, and Bilbao could have been back in the game after I saw him and shot from the distance. Real Madrid had their own chances of extending the lead but Hazard didn’t make the right decision at three to two inside the penalty area and unsuccessfully tried to feed Benzema for the hat-trick. The roller coaster slowed down in the final few minutes, but Madrid had to hold out in the second half to maintain their 2-1 lead.

Normal life resumed for most of the second half as the proceedings fell back to the usual steady tempo. Few chances were produced by both sides throughout the half, but Bilbao did indeed bypass the visitors by creating an opportunity. Courtois saved well for another long-range shot, before another header flew over the bar as in the first half. A dangerous pair of balls in the penalty area made the Real Madrid fans a little nervous, but it didn’t look like any of the chances could deliver that knockout blow. Other than Hazard’s simple late kick against the goalkeeper, Real Madrid made it close to nothing as they shifted their focus to closing down the store to protect the three points. Mariano Diaz was brought along with Castilla star Peter Gonzalez on his Real Madrid debut. This only broke play momentarily as Courtois was called in to work with a good low save to deny Nico Williams a tie. Toni Kroos came close to finishing third, but the guests also kept the pressure on Madrid. The final minutes were tense, but Real Madrid struggled well to contain the hosts and confirm the three points. Tune in to the post-match podcast released later today to check out the important away win at San Mamés!

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