With the points all but in the bag, Areola put victory in doubt
So, LaLiga's second-placed side went to the Bernabéu and lost 4-2, allowing Real Madrid to consolidate top spot. What's more, Eden Hazard finally scored - and a fine goal it was, too. When you sum the game up like that, anyone would think Madrid were back to making life easier for themselves. But that's not the whole story. Indeed, having established a 3-0 lead over a Granada side who disappointed for three quarters of the match, the hosts flirted with disaster late on. The opener came early: a Granada attack led to a cross into the box that Sergio Ramos cleared, but with an attempted header that came off his shoulder. That prompted wild penalty appeals from Roberto Soldado, which distracted the visitors as Madrid raced up to the other end, where Gareth Bale's exquisite pass was buried by Karim Benzema.
When Modric scored the third, the game looked over...
That goal gave rise to a not very thrilling first 45. Granada - who, to make things worse, were hit by an injury to Ángel Montoro - played without any real confidence; Madrid performed well, but with some caution. They're no longer happy to trade blows with their opponents, in the firm belief they'll come out on top. These days, they like to hedge their bets. Nevertheless, they carved out the odd chance and, on the stroke of half time, Hazard made it two. When Luka Modric then lashed in the third after the break, that appeared to be that - until, that is, Alphonse Areola dallied on the ball and contrived to concede a penalty. 3-1. Suddenly, the complexion of the game had changed. Granada had renewed belief, doubts crept into Madrid minds and, from a well-worked corner, the visitors snatched a second.
All of which meant Los Blancos endured a nervous finish, amid the restless murmur of a home support with hearts in mouths. Their jitters were only eased in the very last seconds, when, with Granada committed forward in search of an equaliser, a Madrid break saw Álvaro Odriozola get to the byline and cut the ball back to the recently introduced James Rodríguez, who coolly slotted home. Granada come away empty-handed, but arguably deserved to. They only lived up to expectations when the game was in its final stages. Madrid, meanwhile, can feel a little more settled in top spot after an afternoon certainly not lacking in positives: that wonderful assist by Bale (Benzema's finish almost goes without saying), Hazard's goal and a maiden stand-out display from Federico Valverde. That late scare, though...
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