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La Liga: Benzema helps Real Madrid go level with Athletic Bilbao

Karim Benzema

Bengaluru, September 23: Karim Benzema headed the all-important winner as Real Madrid eased the pressure on Zinedine Zidane by winning 1-0 away at high-flying Sevilla in La Liga.

Benzema was the star of the show at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan as Real secures an impressive victory against a Sevilla side that were unbeaten and hoping to return to the top of the table.

Instead, it is Madrid that go level on points with Athletic Bilbao in first place after a controlled and determined performance that was by some distance their best since Zidane's return as coach in March.

Results | Points Table

"We have had a quite difficult time but the players reacted," Zidane said.

His position had come under scrutiny after Madrid's woeful 0-2 defeat to PSG in the UEFA Champions League, a result that continued their bumpy start to the season, following a turbulent summer in the transfer market.

But this win should do wonders for belief and leaves Barcelona as Spain's chief club in crisis, with Ernesto Valverde under pressure after they were beaten 0-2 by Granada earlier. Madrid are now four points clear of the Catalans after five games played.

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Zidane was asked about his own future as well, several times, and while he maintained he still feels the full backing of the club, there was a warning too. If support dwindles, he said, "then it would probably be best to leave".

Zidane happy

Zidane happy

"I'm very happy as people have been questioning us a lot," said Zidane.

"But we don't think much about that. We played 90 minutes at a very high level in a difficult stadium. We must congratulate all the players."

Not for the first time this season, Zidane singled out Gareth Bale for praise. "Today hard work was the key," he said. "The effort made by James, Gareth, all of them."

Lopetegui booked

Lopetegui booked

Sevilla's newly-installed coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked by Madrid 11 months ago, 139 days after taking the job that cost him the chance to lead Spain at the World Cup.

A frantic opening half an hour made for an engrossing contest but there were few chances, as Lopetegui earned himself a booking for beckoning Gareth Bale to be shown a yellow card.

Benzema the hero

Benzema the hero

Real Madrid probably just shaded the first period and had its two best chances as Eden Hazard was slipped in by Benzema, only to be denied by Tomas Vaclik on the angle, before Dani Carvajal was sent clear by James Rodriguez but this time Vaclik's right foot blocked the defender's finish.

There was little in it, as Bale's excellent cross almost found James at the back post shortly after half-time while Luuk de Jong went close with a header, prompting Carvajal to hack the ball clear at the far post.

Fifth goal

Fifth goal

Still, Madrid looked more likely and so it proved as Raphael Varane won back possession high up, allowing Bale to thread Carvajal in behind. He dug out a cross, which Benzema met brilliantly, rising high to head home his fifth goal of the season.

Sevilla might have equalised but De Jong headed wide under pressure from Carvajal and then Javier Hernandez did score, in the 87th minute, poking in at the near post, only for the assistant to raise his flag.

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Story first published: Monday, September 23, 2019, 11:11 [IST]
Other articles published on Sep 23, 2019
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