x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Karim Benzema strikes again as Real Madrid beat Atletico

Real Madrid beat city rivals Atletico 2-1 to keep up their chase of Primera Liga leaders Barcelona, who beat Getafe 2-1.

Real Madrid's in-from striker Karim Benzema celebrates his goal in front of Atletico fans.
Real Madrid's in-from striker Karim Benzema celebrates his goal in front of Atletico fans.

MADRID // In-form striker Karim Benzema was again on the mark to help Real Madrid continue their long-standing domination of city rivals Atletico Madrid with a 2-1 win to keep the pressure on Primera Liga leaders Barcelona.

Benzema struck his 10th goal from his last eight appearances to put the visitors ahead early on and Mesut Ozil added a second before the break to leave Real, who have not lost to Atletico home or away since 1999, in control.

Sergio Aguero pulled a goal back for Atletico in the 86th minute to give the hosts hope but it was not enough to deny Jose Mourinho’s men, who cut Barcelona’s lead back to five points after the Catalan club had beaten Getafe 2-1 earlier in the evening.

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Atletico, meanwhile, missed the chance to provisionally move level with sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao after seeing their five-match unbeaten run come to an end.

Mourinho heaped praise on his exhausted team after having had an emotionally draining Champions League clash against Lyon on Wednesday when the Whites finally made it through to the quarter-finals after six successive last-16 exits.

“They had a week to prepare for the duel and us, two days. The team was tired. I was also tired and I’m the coach,” said the Portuguese, who has been highly critical of the scheduling of his side’s matches recently.

“The second half was difficult. We couldn’t hit them on the counter-attack.

“I changed Cristiano [Ronaldo] and Benzema, but Ozil had to stay on. We defended as well as possible and we achieved an important derby win.”

Ronaldo was a fitness doubt ahead of the game having been sidelined with a hamstring injury before playing 70 minutes in the European triumph over Lyon.

Mourinho opted to start the Portugal international against Atletico before replacing him in the 72nd minute.

“I would like to have rested him, but I didn’t want the championship to end today and Cristiano Ronaldo is very important to us. It was a risk to play him, but you need to live day to day,” Mourinho said.

“Today he hurts and tomorrow the doctors will examine him. Then we’ll see if he goes away with Portugal (on international duty). They are all tired, physically and mentally.”

Mourinho also hailed the performance goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who made a string of impressive saves to keep Atletico at bay before finally being beaten by Aguero near the end.

“Casillas has done a fantastic job. I like it when my goalkeeper doesn’t have much to do in a game, and he had a lot to do tonight and he was fantastic,” said Mourinho.

“Atletico have shown their great spirit and quality of play, and Madrid had an answer to those who thought that the league finished today.

“I was very worried (about a late equaliser), but at the same time I was full of trust in the players’ mentality and fighting spirit.

“I know football and many things happen in the last minutes and change the result. But they fought, they gave everything and I’m pleased for the players.”

Mourinho was less impressed by the insults and abuse hurled at Ronaldo and Marcelo from the home fans though, saying: “This is a fantastic stadium to play football in with an atmosphere we would like to have at every ground, but the insults are not good or positive and they spoil a great ground.

“There needs to be respect for the players and their families.”

Elswhere, a stunning Dani Alves strike and a deflected Bojan Krkic effort gave Barca victory against Getafe at the Nou Camp.

Alves opened the scoring after 16 minutes with a majestic volley from 22 yards and Bojan added a second early in the second period.

But the Catalans suffered a few nervy moments at the death after Manu del Moral’s late strike gave Getafe brief hope.

Real Zaragoza came back to earth with a bump as they lost to Real Mallorca and finished the match with 10 men.

Coach Javier Aguirre had warned his players not to get carried away after their 4-0 thumping of Valencia last weekend, but his warning went unheeded as they suffered a defeat that leaves them looking over their shoulders towards the relegation zone.

Jonathan De Guzmán got the goal in the 65th minute, finding the net with a free kick from the edge of the area that came as a result of Antonio Doblas handling outside the area, earning himself an early shower.

It was a deserved win for Mallorca, who dominated for most of the game and now look to be safe from the drop.