Athletic 1 - 2 Real Madrid: match report
Casemiro scored the goal that secured a crucial victory for Real Madrid in Bilbao, as the league-leaders open up a four-point gap between themselves and Barcelona. Karim Benzema opened the scoring after 24 minutes of a rip-roaring first half. Aduriz pulled the hosts level after the break with a close-range header, but Casemiro netted shortly after to condemn Athletic to their first home defeat since August.
The match was frenetic from the get-go, as both sides took turns to gallop forward with gusto. Yet it was Madrid that looked the most dangerous, and Cristiano Ronaldo had the ball in the net on nine minutes after Carvajal flashed a cross-cum-shot across the six yard box. But the Portuguese had strayed offside, and the linesman swiftly hoisted his flag. The visitors did not have to wait long for the opener. Ronaldo, playing on the left wing as the fabled 'BBC' returned to duty together, squared the ball to Benzema, who guided the ball in to the bottom corner with consummate ease.
Real Madrid applied further pressure. Kepa, the man between the sticks for Athletic, struggled to deal with a fizzing shot from Gareth Bale. This was the only contribution from the Welshman, who marked his return from suspension with an anonymous performance.The match conformed to narrative on the half hour mark, as Raúl García and Sergio Ramos clashed to spark a mass shoving-battle.
Athletic attacked from the off in the second half. Ramos and Keylor Navas almost conspired to concede a calamitous goal, getting in the way of each other as Aduriz guided a header towards the far post.
Aduriz made no mistake the next time he was presented with an opportunity. A cross from the perpetually-lively Iñaki Williams was cushioned by García, allowing Aduriz to nod in from close range. Athletic looked set to press on for three points, but could only hold on for four minutes. The team in red-and-white took a curiously-relaxed approach to defending a Real Madrid corner. Casemiro, who had spent the afternoon nibbling at the ankles of Athletic players, inexplicably found himself two yards out, and in space. He finished ruthlessly and wheeled away in celebration, mildly surprised by the ease with which he had been allowed to score.
Athletic were initially jaded by this turn of events. Yet they recovered their cool, and attacked relentlessly through Muniain and Williams on the flanks. Ultimately, the Real Madrid rear-guard held strong. Zidane and co. return to the capital full of pep, and well placed for the La Liga run-in.
It emerged that Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who played the full 90 minutes, had been hospitalized and on a drip just 48 hours before the game. Read more about that here:
Here was what Zidane has to say about today's victory and why Cristiano may not always play the full 90 minutes from now on.
Athletic 1- 2 Real Madrid: second half live
FT - the referee blows his whistle and there's a great deal of back-slapping among the Real Madrid players. A very good win.
Min 93 | Navas booked for time wasting. One last chance for Athletic to launch it forward.
Min 92 | Susaeta commits the cardinal sin of set piece delivery, and fails to beat the first man.
Min 90 | Three minutes of added time. Madrid are defending like beavers, but Casemiro commits a foul on the edge of the box, in a crossing position. Susaeta to deliver.
Min 89 | Mikel Rico wins the ball in midfield and immediately plays it forward through the lines. White shirts smother it and Real Madrid hold off the surge, for now.
Min 88 | Balenziago whips a ball in from the left. Susaeta meets it, but he can't generate any power on the header, which loops in to the awaiting arms of Navas.
Min 85 | A final change for both teams. For Madrid, Morata for Benzema. For Athletic, Susaeta for García.
Min 84 | It has become a little stale here. Possession changing hands a lot in the centre.
Min 80 | Ronaldo is replaced by Isco. He has a face like thunder as he ambles to the touchline. At the same time, Beñat makes way for Mikel Rico.
Min 79 | The introduction of Muniain has been important. He's constantly in space down the left flank, probably because Madrid are so preoccupied by the not inconsiderable threat of Señor Williams on the other side.
Min 77 | Another smart stop by Navas. Williams shoots from a tight angle, but the Costa Rican has his angles spot on, and parries it in to the side netting. Real Madrid get the subsequent corner clear.
Min 75 | To their credit, Athletic do appear to have grasped hold of the game again, just as it looked to be slipping away from them. They've turned the pressure back on. Cross after cross coming in from the flanks, but Ramos and Nacho dealing with it well at the moment.
Min 71 | It's so close to a third for Madrid. Benzema bursts in to the box, and there's a bit of pinball before it falls at the feet of Marcelo. He skewers it over with the outside of his left boot. Athletic look jaded by the second goal that broke their momentum. They need to switch back on mentally.
Min 70 | Oooof! Kroos cleans out Laporte in Athletic's half, as the defender strode out with the intention of starting a counter attack. The German trots back in to position as the referee shows a yellow card, he knew the punishment was coming.
Min 68 | GOAL GOAL GOAL MADRID! Casemiro, an unlikely scorer, is left all along two yards out, and he passes it beyond a hapless Kepa. Really, really, shoddy defending. Athletic will be so disappointed, having controlled the entirety of the second half.
Min 67 | Whistles from the crowd as Real Madrid have a spell of possession. It's a corner to the away side.
Min 64 | GOAL GOAL GOAL! It's Aduriz and it's with his head - who would have thunk it or thought it? It came from a deep Williams cross, which Raúl García guided on to the head of his team mate. It took a slight deflection, but still nestled in to the back of the net. It had been coming.
Min 62 | Great save by Navas! Williams is played in by De Marcos, and his low shot is parried by the 'keeper's right hand. He did exceptionally well to get down to that, although Williams will perhaps to disappointed to have given him the chance to save it, given that he was only six or seven yards out.
Min 60 | And now Real Madrid make a change. Lucas Vazquez enters the fray in the place of Luka Modric.
Min 59 | Patient build up by Athletic, as they look to work space to cross the ball to the towering target man Aduriz. The ball goes out for a throw-in to the home side, and Muniain replaces Lekue as Valverde shuffles his pack for the first time.
Min 55 | Iñaki gets his gallop on as Athletic look to break on the counter. He can only manage a few of his long strides before he runs in to trouble and loses possession. The crowd are ramping up the volume inside San Mamés. It's through Williams that Athletic have looked most threatening. He's got the beating of Marcelo over five yards, which is all he needs to skip past the left back and cross the ball.
Min 53 | García clearly clips the heel of Casemiro, as the Madrid anchorman spins away in the centre of the park. It's an easy decision for the ref - foul. There was no need for that, Casemiro was going nowhere.
Min 51 | Now it's the away side's turn to threaten from a corner. A clever back-heel from Modric allows Benzema to clip in a ball to the far post, where De Marcos guides it behind with his chest. Kroos' in-swinger comes to nothing.
Min 49 | Corner to Athletic. Ramos and Williams slide along the grass together (the groundsman won't be best pleased), and the former gets the last touch. Laporte sends the delivery wide of the far post with his head.
Min 46 | Athletic are immediately on the attack. Aduriz leaps to nod a Williams cross back across the face of goal towards the far post, and Navas and Ramos get in each others way. It's almost calamitous, but the team in white manage to frantically scramble it away. The resultant corner comes to nothing.
The teams trot back out in to La Catedral. No changes for either side.
Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid: first half live
Right, it's time to catch a breath after a battling biff-bang of a first half. Real Madrid created the best chances in an end-to-end first 45 minutes; Ronaldo put the ball in the net after nine minutes, but the linesman was quick to raise his flag. When the Portuguese played in Benzema 15 minutes later, the striker made no mistake in guiding the ball in to the bottom corner with his instep. Textbook finish there, kids. We also had a García vs. Ramos flare up, which is a regularly-crossed box in 'Athletic v Real Madrid bingo'.
HT - Athletic Club 0 - 1 Real Madrid
Min 45 | Williams gets to the byline and chips in a ball to the back post. Real Madrid clear as the fourth official indicates one minute of added time.
Min 43 | Benzema is down and holding his left knee, but it looks like he'll be fine to continue.
Min 42 | Athletic have had a good five minute spell in control of the ball. Beñat and Iturraspe are beginning to take control of the middle of the pitch. They've had 53 percent of possession so far.
Min 39 | Off the ball, Ronaldo and Bale are dropping back deeper than we have seen recently. Zidane ostensibly keen to prevent Athletic progressing along the flanks and putting crosses in to Aduriz.
Min 37 | Athletic have a period of possession near the Real Madrid box, but an eventual delivery from Lekue is woefully over hit. It's straight out for a goal kick.
Min 35 | Golden chance for Benzema to score his second. A lovely cross from Marcelo reaches Benzema at waist height, but instead of stooping for the header, he tries to get his foot up high enough to meet it. He was caught in two minds, and fluffed his lines.
Min 34 | Keylor Navas is forced in to a save, albeit a comfortable one. Raúl García nods a header on target, but it's from too far out to cause the Costa Rican any issues.
Min 31 | And now, Casemiro is booked. He's lucky that it isn't his second yellow as he piles in to an aerial challenge. Just before, Carvajal and Aduriz also entered the book for their part in the flare up.
Min 30 | Let's take stock as the match passes the half-hour mark. It has been end-to-end, frenetic, and highly-charged. Real Madrid have started to apply more consistent pressure following the back-and-forth first 20 minutes.
Min 28 | We've got handbags in Bilbao, and guess what, it's García vs Ramos. The two come together for an aerial ball, clash, and each have a little strop. Never one to miss out, Aduriz piles in too. The match gets underway again with a free kick taken long by Navas.
Min 26 | Phwoar! Real Madrid nearly double their lead. A swashbuckling shot from the left boot of Gareth Bale is palmed on to the ground by Kepa, who then dives on the loose ball.
Min 24 | GOAL! GOAL GOAL! Real Madrid take the lead at San Mamés through Karim Benzema. A superb long-range pass by Kroos finds Ronaldo on the left wing. He squares it to his BBC companion, and the Frenchman buries it in to the bottom left corner.
Min 22 | Iñaki Williams is felled on the half way line by the swinging right leg of Casemiro. That was very cynical indeed, no attempt to play the ball. Somehow, the Brazilian escapes the referee's notebook.
Min 19 | Well, it was Kroos to Ramos, a sumptuous ball. But the captain sends his diving header just wide. There were two men free at the far post for Real Madrid there, Benzema was also waiting; the Athletic defence will need to secure their defending at set pieces.
Min 18 | Blimey, it's certainly frenetic. Now Real Madrid, and Ronaldo, go close. He tries to shoot across the goalkeeper, but Kepa gets a strong hand to it. Kepa then punches away a corner, but the pressure continues. Yeray concedes a free-kick in prime Kroos to Ramos assist territory.
Min 15 | Great chance for Athletic! García is fouled on the byline, he's then involved again as he heads the subsequent free kick across the face of goal for Yeray to poke just wide. The young defender was onside, and should have found the target.
Min 14 | Iturraspe is involved again. He cleans out Kroos on the left wing and gives away a foul, just inside the Real Madrid half.
Min 12 | It's end-to-end stuff thus far. Athletic gallop forward and De Marcos plays a teasing ball across the six yard box. None of his teammates can get on the end of it. Iturraspe head well over from the resultant corner.
Min 9 | Real Madrid have a goal ruled out for offside. With their first meaningful attack, Benzema slips in Carvajal. The Spanish international flashes a cross-cum-shot across the face of goal. Cristiano turns it in at the far post, but the linesman was quick to raise his flag. Carvajal really should have shown more conviction, and shot himself.
Min 7 | Chance for Athletic! Raúl García hooks a left foot at a deep cross. Navas claws it away and the Real Madrid defence clear, but only temporarily. The home side have a corner, which is headed away.
Min 6 | Athletic are looking bright on the left flank through the whippet-like Lekue. He shoots from range but its in to Navas' arms.
Min 2 | Athletic are out of the blocks like rabbits and launch an early attack but the cut-back ricochets off Aduriz and harmlessly out for a goal kick.
Min 1| The referee puts the whistle to his lips and we're off.
Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid: team news
Athletic XI: Kepa; De Marcos, Laporte, Yeray, Balenziaga; Iturraspe, Beñat, Raúl García, Lekue; Williams, Aduriz.
Coach: Ernesto Valverde
Real Madrid XI: Keylor; Carvajal, Nacho, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Cristiano, Bale, Benzema.
Coach: Zinedine Zidane
Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid: latest news
16:13 | The teams are gathering in the tunnel at San Mamés. They're tracksuit-clad and ready to go.
16:12 | Contrasted to Real Madrid's high-scoring games of late, there have been under 2.5 goals scored in Athletic's three La Liga matches.
16:03 | It's fantastic to see Yeray in the starting XI for Athletic. The 21-year old was diagnosed with testicular cancer before Christmas, and needed surgery. He plays alongside Aymeric Laporte at the back.
15:58 | Athletic haven't had the ideal preparation in training this week, as one player hospitalised another...
15:50 | Just 25 minutes until kick off. For the statisticians amongst you... In 11 of Real Madrid's last 12 matches there have been over 2.5 goals scored. It bodes well for an entertaining clash.
15:45 | The famous Basque rain does have some advantages, the pitch at San Mamés is looking resplendent. Real snooker-table stuff. If I played on that surface, I would instantly become a professional-quality footballer, I think that's how it works...
15:40 | Sergio Ramos hasn't received a single red card this season, not even two yellows. This is surprising given his occasional fondness for rash defending, could Raúl García to wind him up all the way to an early bath?
15:30 | Real Madrid's recent record against Athletic is staggeringly good. They have won 22 of the last 25 matches between the two teams.
15:26 | It's a battle of the bonces this afternoon in Bilbao; Ronaldo and Aduriz are vying for the 'most headed goals in La Liga' record.
15:22 | So the teams are in! It's BBC up front for Real Madrid. Modric, Kroos, and Casemiro will form the midfield three behind them. For Athletic, Raúl Garcia will be a useful irritant in behind Aduriz, with Williams and Lekue providing plenty of pace and width.
15:15 | Athletic Club has a fascinating, intertwined relationship with the Basque Country. This video by Copa 90 explores the dynamic.
15:10 | Sergio Ramos is the undoubtedly a man for the big occasion. If Real Madrid find themselves in a tricky situation at San Mámes, you wouldn't bet against him popping up with a crucial goal. In fact, we almost expect it now.
15:00 | Athletic's home form really has been phenomenal this season: L, W, W, W, D, W, W, W, D, D, W, W, W, W. In the home form table The Lions sit second with 33 points, two ahead of Barcelona and one better off than Sevilla. Real Madrid also lead that chart, with 36 points gained at the Bernabéu this season.
14:30 | Not long to go until kick-off in San Mamés and it's a perfect afternoon for football, a balmy 16 degrees and with zero chance of rain.
14:00 | Zidane Jr, Enzo, didn't make the squad for the game today but he did show off a few tricks in training. He's definitely his father's son.
13:30 | Athletic go into the game at San Mamés after scoring a Basque derby victory last weekend with a 2-0 victory over Real Sociedad at Anoeta.
12:40 | Real have quite a busy schedule coming up in April. As well as playing a double header against Bayern in the Champions League, Zidane's side will host Barcelona for El Clásico a few days after the second leg.
12:00 | Athletic striker Iñaki Williams had a chinwag with AS ahead of the game. You can read the interview here.
11:15 | Zidane will have the BBC available as Gareth Bale returns from suspension but has a few issues at the back, with Pepe and Raphael Varane ruled out.
10:30 | Zinedine Zidane is expecting a tough match at San Mamés against a side who haven't lost at home since last August. You can read his pre-match musings here.
09:30 | There are not many stadiums where Cristiano Ronaldo has not found the back of the net. Five, in fact, in Spain. One of those is the Nuevo San Mamés, which Athletic moved into for the 2013-14 season (they didn't have to go far: the new stadium was built right next to the old one). Three games, three blanks, one draw, one win and one defeat is Ronaldo's record in the new Catedral.
08:30 | Quite the game in store at San Mamés this afternoon. You can find out how and where it's available to watch with our handy guide. Or, of course, you can stay right here and follow all the action with our minute-by-minute coverage.
Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid: preview
The Lions of Bilbao play host to Real Madrid in one of LaLiga’s classic encounters in San Mamés on Saturday. Two of only three sides never to have been relegated from the top flight, this will be the 176th meeting between the clubs with Real Madrid having won 91 times, Athletic claiming victory on 52 occasions and the spoils shared in 32 fixtures. Both sides have their targets for the season set: Real the Liga title, where they remain in the driving seat two points clear of Barcelona, and Athletic a return to European action next season with four points separating Ernesto Valverde’s men and local rivals Real Sociedad in seventh.
The home side’s morale will be high after a Basque derby win in Anoeta last weekend and Athletic will be, as always, eager to put a dent in Real Madrid’s parade bus. On paper, Valverde’s side have every chance of doing so: Athletic have not lost a home game since last August and have their full attacking array available for the game. Iñaki Williams is in form, Aritz Aduriz a constant threat and Raúl García ever-keen to irritate a visiting side who won this fixture last season but were beaten the year before that.
Valverde will be without the suspended Mikel San José but has enough steel in midfield to go toe-to-toe with Real and the division’s joint-fourth meanest home defence, which has conceded just 13 times at San Mamés this season.
Zidane’s side recovered leadership of LaLiga last weekend courtesy of a late win over Betis and Barcelona’s defeat at Riazor. The trip to San Mamés represents arguably the toughest away day Real face in the final straight of the season and the visitors have often had to fight tooth and nail to get a positive result out of the stadium. It also remains one of only five stadiums in which Cristiano Ronaldo has never bagged a goal in the Spanish top flight, although the Portuguese’s record of 16 in 15 Liga games against Athletic is bettered on ratio against only four sides during his Real Madrid career.
Zidane will be without central defensive pair Pepe and Raphael Varane so Nacho will partner Sergio Ramos in the heart of the back four but Gareth Bale returns after suspension giving the Real boss the option of reuniting the BBC in Bilbao.
Athletic vs Real Madrid: selected betting odds
The shortest odds are on a 1-1 draw or a 2-1 Madrid victory, the results in two of the last three meetings between the sides at San Mamés. Those outcomes pay out at 8/1, while a home win is priced at 4/1 and the away victory less than 2/1. Cristiano Ronaldo is unsurprisingly chalked up at 4/1 favourite to open the scoring while the camel coats are offering 10/1 on Iñaki Williams bothering the onion bag first.