17 November 2012
Real Madrid are in cruise control in the league. The Whites thrashed Athletic, last season’s cup and Europa League runners-up, entertained the Bernabéu and secured their fifth straight win in the championship four days before the important Champions League match against City. The match was an attacking exhibition from the home team, who scored five goals, smashed the ball against the woodwork and saw two of the Basque side’s defenders make goal line stops preventing the advantage being even greater. An Aurtenetxe own goal and goals from Ramos and Benzema had settled the match in just over half an hour. Ibai, just before half-time, reduced the arrears, but Özil and Khedira in the second half closed out the match. The Frenchman deserved a special mention on his return to the pitch: he made the first goal, scored the third, and got the assist for the fourth and provoked a constant feeling of fear in the opposing defence. The ovation that his fans gave when he was replaced by Morata spoke for itself.
Real Madrid returned to the Santiago Bernabéu eleven days after their previous home match. It has been impregnable so far this season, and was once again with Benzema and Modric as the changes in Mourinho’s eleven following last weekend’s important victory in the City of Valencia Stadium. It was a combination of these two players that put Real Madrid ahead in the 12th minute. A precision pass from the Croatian from inside his own half which the Frenchman took out of the air on the edge of the area and Aurtenetxe, whilst attempting to clear the ball, chipped the ball over Iraizoz, who is half way out of his goal. It was the first chance of the match for the Whites. Ronaldo, on two consecutive occasions (4th and 5th minutes), and Callejón in the 7th minute had chances before the goal.
The goal spurred the home team on greatly who had played the first fifteen minutes well enough to deserve a bigger advantage on the scoreboard. Another chance for Ronaldo came in the 13th minute and an even clearer one for Callejón, who bamboozled the centre-back Ekiza on the goal-line and went around the visitors’ keeper but couldn’t score. Athletic tried to improve their game by concentrating on ball control, but their goal was still under constant threat. The next chance didn’t come from any of the attacking players, instead it was Ramos, who joined the attack from a corner taken by Özil and forced Iraizoz into making a miraculous one-handed save in the 23rd minute. It was the prelude to the second goal of the night, which came seven minutes later. The play was similar to the earlier one. Özil took the free-kick and Ramos full length diving header gave him his first Real Madrid goal of the season.
The match looked to be decided and soon took the home team increased the lead in what was a work of art. In the 32nd minute, Xabi Alonso, smarter than anyone, took quick free-kick on the edge of the area, Callejón controlled the ball and gave it to Benzema. The Frenchman received the ball with his back to goal and with Ekiza on top of him, he set up the ball and with the outside of his foot and from out wide he turned and beat Iraizoz with a beautiful left-footed curler. The Frenchman could not have be more precise on his return to the field: he caused the first goal and scored the third in just over half an hour of play (later getting the assist to the fourth scored by Özil), combined well with his teammates and caused a constant feeling of fear in the opposing defence. The match seemed settled and came even closer to being so following cross from Ronaldo that Callejón his against the post, but Athletic did not want to give up so soon and Ibai, in the first shot on goal from the visitors reduced the deficit in the 42nd minute. 3-1. The advantage at the break was significant, but not unassailable.
Benzema’s display continued after the break
The first chances of the second half, despite Bielsa opting to bring on Llorente and play with two strikers, were for the home team. The tireless Ronaldo, who played despite the injury that he suffered from the elbow he received against Levante, shot again from the edge of the area, but Iraizoz caught the ball. The Whites did not miss in the next dangerous play which came in the 58th minute. Benzema controlled the ball with his heel outside the area, and saw the arrival of Özil out of the corner of his eye and puts the ball on a plate for German who only had to put it to the net. 4-1 and Real Madrid were enjoying playing in their stadium. Benzema display was lethal and the Frenchman almost got another deserved goal but Aurtenetxe made a goal line clearance. The Frenchman’s control with the outside of his foot and chip over the visiting keeper in the 58th minute deserved a better outcome.
Khedira, who had replaced his compatriot Özil in 60th minute, did manage to get another. The German received the ball from Arbeloa, who controlled the flanks dangerously throughout the match, and with his first shot on goal in the 72nd beat Iraizoz at the far post. 5-1 and, as Ramos did in the first half, the German international opened his goal-scoring account this season. Two minutes later Mourinho took off Benzema for Morata and the ovation that the Bernabéu gave them both was thunderous. It was deserved for a team that secured its fifth straight win in the league just four days before the important Champions League match against Manchester City.