- Madrid's head boy! Benzema saves the day as Real bounce back from PSG nightmare20:09 | 23/09/2019
The striker continues to be everything Zinedine Zidane needs, especially following Wednesday’s Champions League disaster.
Photo by Getty
This was more like it, and it needed to be.
Real Madrid responded to their midweek humiliation in Paris with a much-improved display against Sevilla on Sunday, with head boy Karim Benzema earning them a 1-0 victory which will raise morale in the Spanish capital.
And morale was extremely low, with Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat by Paris-Saint Germain in the Champions League raising questions about coach Zinedine Zidane’s future.
Attention turned back to La Liga and the clash between a shaken Madrid and the team that started the weekend as league leaders, led by Julen Lopetegui, who had a point to prove after Madrid sacked him last season.
Despite the Parc des Princes horror show, Zidane picked the same starting line-up bar the return of captain Sergio Ramos, who had been suspended.
And with the egos of his squad stung, they responded with the sort of defensively diligent display that it had seemed Madrid were completely incapable of delivering. In fact, for the first time since August 2016 Madrid didn’t allow a single shot on target in a league match.
Their win at a spicy Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan sent Madrid joint top of the table with Athletic Club.
The teams battled hard and, even if there weren’t many chances, the game was engaging.
In the second half, the quality dropped as both teams began to look tired. Madrid, because they don’t seem capable of maintaining their intensity, to use Zidane’s favourite word, for a full 90-minute display. Sevilla, because they came home from their Europa League clash with Qarabag, in Baku, early Friday morning.
But Benzema and Dani Carvajal combined for the key moment, with the latter scooping a cross into the box for the former to rise and nod home in the 65th minute.
The French forward has saved Madrid a number of times in 2019 and has been their standout player.
This was his fifth goal of the season from five league games, putting him top of the scoring charts alongside Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno.
It was also Benzema’s ninth headed goal of the calendar year – nobody in Europe’s top five leagues has scored more.
It’s not that he’s a powerful presence or a big target to hit, just that his superb awareness, positioning and knack for being in the right place at the right time give him the proverbial jump on the defence.
Benzema’s headed output has increased hugely over the past few seasons with the forward having scored 35 per cent of his goals with his head in the last three seasons, while it was only 12 per cent in the eight before that.
As Madrid’s most intelligent player on the pitch – Luka Modric aside – it’s no surprise he is using his head.
Sevilla nearly grabbed the equaliser in the final stages, but Javier Hernandez netted from an offside position.
There are still significant worries at Madrid. Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale barely appeared in the game, failing to get involved and, when they did have the ball, they were wasteful.
Hazard missed the best chance of the first half, coming inside from the left after Benzema set him up, but firing straight at Tomas Vaclik.
But, with Benzema in such fine form, a lot of Madrid’s ills can be covered up.
For years he worked to feed Cristiano Ronaldo but now he’s the main man and the likes of Hazard and Bale will have to wrestle that title from him if they can.
Source – Goal.com
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