Real Madrid secured a vital three points in the La Liga title race as they traveled to Athletic Club and snatched a 2-0 victory.
Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos provided the decisive blows, but the result was a team effort. It was far from a resounding victory, as Madrid remain somewhat off their usual pace and Athletic provided a worthy opposition, but ultimately the visitors emerged victorious thanks to a pair of glittering finishes that the hosts could not match.
Carlo Ancelotti rang the changes before the match, sitting out-of-form veterans Luka Modric and Kroos in favor of Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio. Those alterations, plus faith in Eduardo Camavinga, proved vital as all aforementioned starters put forth quality performances. The finishes from Benzema and Kroos were highlight-reel moments, as both required significant body control to pick out the bouncing ball on the volley.
Benzema struck first, scoring just before the half-hour mark with an excellent finish despite his back to goal. It forced Athletic Club to chase the game, and they did just that, pouring on the pressure in the final 20 minutes of the match. At one point it seemed a miracle they couldn’t find a deserved equaliser for their hard work.
Ultimately, however, Kroos came off the bench and found the goal to seal the result just as regulation came to a close. Real Madrid keep pace with Barcelona at the top of the La Liga table after the Blaugrana managed a drab 1-0 win over Girona earlier in the day.
For their performance, Athletic Club go home with nothing tangible to show for their defeat, but the hosts can be proud of their efforts. Nico Williams and his brother Inaki were both dangerous at times, but lacked the cutting edge finish.
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