Benzema saves the day again

Photo: AFP

Karim Benzema’s late equaliser cancelled out Luis Suarez’s opener as the Liga leaders missed opportunities and saw their lead cut to just three points.

Karim Benzema was the person to deliver it, playing a one-two with Casemiro and slotting range in the 88th minute to secure a 1-1 draw while keeping Real Madrid’s faint hopes of defending their La Liga title alive and also nourishing Barcelona’s chances.

Atletico had the prospect to effectively knock Real out of the running but, like within the 2014 Champions League final, let during a late goal against their bitter city rivals which changed the entire picture. From an eight-point lead on Real with a game in hand, which might have felt unassailable, to only five points and a way of regret gnawing away at them.

Diego Simeone’s side’s performance implied their recent wobble is over, but they might not kill the sport , and Benzema made them pay. Atletico were bolstered by the double return of Kieran Trippier and Yannick Carrasco, from suspension and injury respectively, while Real Madrid welcomed back their French striker and talisman.

Zinedine Zidane’s Real produced an anaemic first 45 minutes, not threatening in the least , with their only opportunity coming when the ball struck Atletico defender Felipe’s arm from a corner, just for penalty appeals to be waved away following a VAR check.

Only Courtois kept Madrid within the game early within the last half , making an outstanding save to deny Carrasco, with Llorente volleying the rebound over, before the goalkeeper saved from Suarez from close range. Angel Correa, meanwhile, had perhaps the simplest chance to double Atletico’s lead but fluffed his lines after good work from the impressive Trippier.

These were key moments, huge openings against a feeble Real Madrid, which all visited waste. it had been not until the 80th minute that the visitors created a clear-cut chance, and Benzema wasted it, with Oblak pulling off a splendid double stop to twice deny him from close range. The Slovenia shot-stopper then emphatically beat away the Frenchman’s free-kick, as Madrid finally began to take the sport by the scruff of the neck.

Eventually their late pressure told, with Casemiro and Benzema, the club’s two best players this season additionally to Courtois, combining and levelling the sport , snatching hope out of Atletico’s hands and leaving the Spanish title race open.

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