Real Madrid level on points atop La Liga with major win in match against Bilbao
Real Madrid star Karim Benzema scored the winner as Real Madrid beat 10-man Athletic Bilbao 3-1 to go level on points atop La Liga with Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night.
Real Madrid were fresh off a big 2-0 win in a match against city rivals Atleti on Saturday that put Zinedine Zidane's side up to third in La Liga, three points behind Diego Simeone's league leaders. Los Blancos remain in third because of goal difference.
The visitors were left to play most of the match with only 10 players after Raul Garcia was sent off after being given his second yellow card in the opening some 13 minutes for a pair of fouls.
Zidane's side took control in the latter stages of the first half and it finally paid off beautifully just before the break with an exquisite strike from Toni Kroos to give Real Madrid a 1-0 lead after the opening 45 minutes.
Bilbao, who had looked pretty dangerous at times in the first half, levelled the score soon after the break when Thibaut Courtois spilled Ander Capa's close-range shot right back in his path and the Athletic man tucked the rebound away.
Real Madrid's top current scorer Benzema fired the hosts back in front in the 74th minute with a beautiful header that left Athletic Bilbao keeper Unai Simon no chance.
After the match, Zidane said he thought his countryman was the best striker in France's entire history.
"For me, yes. What he's doing, he shows it, he's played at Real Madrid for a long time, more than 500 games," Zidane said. "His goals, his trophies, what he's done, they speak for themselves. For me he's the best, yes, it's clear.”
"He's a more complete player now but he's always shown it, he isn't a pure No. 9 only thinking about goals. That's why I love him. He doesn't only have that in his head. He links up, passes to teammates, that's what I like in football, and he has both things.”
"Today he didn't have a great game but in the end he still scored two goals, that's what Karim has."
Courtois made a big save down the stretch to keep Real in the lead and Benzema added his second goal immediately thereafter on the counter to seal the three points for the defending Spanish champions.
Benzema stated: "It was a really important game for us. We're on the right track. We attack and defend together as a team. When we're at this level, things turn out well for us."