Athletic put in an admirable display at the Bernabéu, one indicative of their great history. Once again they lost, and convincingly (4-2) – their 11th consecutive defeat in their most recent league visits to Chamartín; but they played well and the game could have ended very differently. They squared up to Madrid, fought in every part of the pitch, Beñat moved the ball about well, they created a number of excellent combined moves in attack – particularly in the first half, and enjoyed several attempts on goal. For all of their efforts, they were left with just two goals, one strike against the post and a few decent saves from Keylor Navas. This time Aduriz didn’t find the net but he was the same persistent, probing striker as ever. All he lacked, was getting his name on the score sheet.
Madrid won because of their tremendous punching power. Cristiano opening the scoring early on with a individual effort, James brought up the 2-1 when Madrid were at their worst and Kroos added a third just before half-time just when it seemed Athletic might grab an equaliser. Madrid left us with the sensation that scoring comes easily to them. And that, considering they were without Marcelo, whose absence I thought Zidane remedied badly by deploying Carvajal out on the left and Danilo on the opposite flank which meant neither flank functioned efficiently. Madrid looked a bit threadbare at the back, Athletic troubled them, but they compensated for that with their force in attack.
The game dropped off in intensity after the break. Athletic came out still reeling from going 3-1 behind and Madrid retreated deeper – and waited, on hold, to hit their guests on the break but it didn’t happen for them. In that aspect they have lost something. Cristiano added a fourth and Athletic scored their second, which meant there were no late surprises. Overall, I felt that both teams got something out of the game. Athletic stood up to Madrid despite missing Williams, Raúl García, Susaeta and San José. They’ll come away stronger for it. As for Madrid, after so many recent feasts of goals at the Bernabéu, I think the dose of reality they were served yesterday is just what they needed ahead of the games coming up.