Benzema brace saves Real Madrid blushes against Eibar
Two goals from the French striker, who also hit the post, aided Los Blancos' comeback against Eibar in front of an empty Bernabéu.
Karim Benzema said earlier in the season that he felt the responsibility to shoulder the task of leading Real Madrid into their post-Cristiano Ronaldo era and the Frenchman did just that on Saturday as he scored twice to complete a comeback against Eibar in the Bernabéu, having capped another a few days earlier against Huesca.
A sparse crowd was on hand to witness Benzema’s exceptional performance – and those who did attend the game seemed to do so purely to hound Gareth Bale throughout – but the striker, who has had his share of criticism down the years while laboring in the considerable shadow or Ronaldo, rose to the occasion with aplomb.
Sporting the armband in the absences of Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, Benzema was active in both areas and made as many clearances as he had shots on goal with more than double the tally of any of his teammates.
It seemed Real were in for another chastening afternoon when Marc Cardona gave the visitors a deserved lead before the break and a cacophony of jeers greeted the half time whistle. Zinedine Zidane may not have thrown any tea cups about in the dressing room but his side came out after the break with a different mindset and gradually began to wrest control of the game from Eibar, who had schooled Santiago Solari’s Real Madrid 2.0 in Ipurua earlier in the season.
Benzema was almost a lone ranger for large spells of the game with little support from Bale or Marco Asensio, but it was the Spain winger who provided the moment of genius required to pull an underperforming Madrid back into the game, showing great footwork on the right to escape the attention of three Eibar defenders and delivering a cross for the Frenchman to attack. It was no easy ask but Benzema rose above his markers to head into the roof of the net via the turf with Marko Dmitrovic caught off-guard.
Bale under the Bernabéu spotlight again
From there, Real started to exert more pressure on the visitors, whose tight defensive tactics off the ball held form until the 81st minute when substitute Toni Kroos found Benzema with a clipped ball, the Frenchman again sending an unstoppable header past Dmitrovic.
Benzema’s desire for a hat-trick and his teammates’ determination to hand him one dominate the final stages as Eibar’s belief sapped, the number nine whacking a post with a curling effort and missing a sitter after being teed up by another substitute, Lucas Vázquez.
Real’s overall performance will do little to dispel rumours of a cull this summer and Bale in particular was a millstone around the collective neck as he endured a miserable 76 minutes. Benzema, though, ensured he will be one player still knocking about under Zidane next season with a captain’s performance when the majority around him were flailing.