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Cristiano makes the grade, as always


We saw an engaging game of football in Ipurua – an absorbing and keenly-fought match with an entrancing finale. And judging by the hugging on the final whistle, you could tell that both sets of players mutually felt they had taken part in a real battle in which were determined to come away as winners. Madrid edged it thanks to Cristiano’s sheer punching power while Eibar lost in side the visitors’ penalty area; they had two shouts for a penalty turned down – borderline penalty appeals but one which are either given or not. I’m with Iturralde on this one – it’s not the same judging these kinds of incidents on the television as it is out on the field of play and I think the ref was right to let play continue in both instances. So Eibar were left without points but that takes nothing away from their prestige or their status as aspirants to secure their place in European competition next season. They only lost the game because Madrid managed to win back two lost balls in their own area when they were being attacked - two isolated incidents and then there was Cristiano to capitalize...

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A chance for Madrid's forwards to show their worth

For Madrid, the game was also an exercise in seeing how those who came into the side fared. Zidane is weighing up the merits of his attacking playing staff as the team prep themselves for the final rounds of the Champions League. In his starting XI there are five players contesting the two available forward positions: Lucas Vázquez, Asensio, Benzema, Bale and Isco; all of them are fully fit and available. So his 10 first choice players, the aforementioned five, Nacho and Kovacic form the group of 16 which Zidane has decided will form the core of his Champions League squad. Against Eibar, Modric and Kroos were back from injury (the Croatian looked more comfortable on the day ) while it was the turn of Isco and Bale to put foward their arguments for a regular starting place in the team.

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Cristiano never lets the side down

Bale played well. The punishment of a stint on the subs’ bench – one which he isn’t accustomed to, has down him good. He played on the left wing, he dropped back when needed, attacked, put in decent crosses… Isco was a little off the pace and seemed a little insecure – and when that happens, his magic fades. Benzema came on right at the end and didn’t really do much of note to inspire confidence. The player who really did earn his spurs was Cristiano. His finishing in both of his goals was clinical, he brought two great saves out of Dmitrovic and underlined for the umpteenth time that he is in fine fettle (and things are now going right for him). And when that happens, everything else is superfluous.