2022-23 LaLiga
  • Karim Benzema (24')
  • Toni Kroos (90')

Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos lead Real Madrid to victory in Bilbao

Kroos doubles Madrid's lead with a finish outside the box (1:04)

Toni Kroos places it in the bottom corner from outside the box to give Real Madrid a 2-0 lead. (1:04)

Real Madrid earned a 2-0 win in a feisty encounter at Athletic Club on Sunday to ensure they stayed in the hunt for the LaLiga title with leaders Barcelona.

Barca moved to 44 points in the standings after their 1-0 win over Getafe earlier on Sunday. They are three points ahead of Real and six points in front of third-placed Real Sociedad. Athletic Club are eighth with 26 points.

Real Madrid, beaten by Villarreal in their last league outing, secured the points thanks to a first-half goal from Karim Benzema and a strike from Toni Kroos in added time.

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After a frantic come-from-behind 3-2 win in the Copa del Rey midweek, coach Carlo Ancelotti decided to rest veterans Luka Modric and Toni Kroos and give an opportunity to midfielder Dani Ceballos, who was instrumental in his team's triumph.

Alongside youngster Eduardo Camavinga, who also played a superb match, Ceballos started the play that ended with Benzema's brilliant finish.

In the 23rd minute, he passed to Federico Valverde in the right channel, who crossed to Marco Asensio whose towering header fell into Benzema's path and the Frenchman quickly fired a left-footed volley into the left corner.

"[Benzema] is back, as I've said before," Ancelotti said after the game. "Karim is back and brings us a lot up front. We're very happy and satisfied. I also want to highlight the game of Camavinga, who was spectacular."

Athletic's winger Nico Williams created all kinds of trouble for Real's defence, but they stood firm, earning their second clean sheet in their last eight league matches.

"Today it was evident that our team were back at defending well," Ancelotti told DAZN. "We were solid and compact like we used to be and it's important for us to keep that same mentality and attitude going forward.

"Ceballos played very well throughout the game, showed personality with the ball, well positioned without the ball.

"He hasn't played much but it's a moment of the season that we need everyone to show up like he is doing."

Asensio, Vinicius Junior and Valverde missed good chances to extend Real's lead in the second half.

Nico Williams wasted a golden opportunity to equalise in the 69th minute when a series of mistakes by Real's defence gifted him the ball inside the box, but he missed the target with a poorly executed shot in front of an empty goal.

His brother, Inaki Williams, had a goal ruled out a few minutes later for an offside in the build-up that left Athletic's players and staff seething.

"We tried everything," Inaki said post-match. "We lacked a bit of luck. We were playing well, in the first and second half, Real Madrid didn't feel comfortable but that's what Madrid do, when you're on top, they can finish you off.

"The 2-0 isn't fair but there's no time to think about that. We have an important game [in the cup] on Thursday."

After Athletic and Real Madrid both squandered numerous chances to score, the visitors extended their lead in the 91st minute when Rodrygo found substitute Kroos who slotted in a powerful low strike from the edge of the box just inside the left post.

Spanish LaLiga Standings

1 Barcelona 26 +40 68
2 Real Madrid 26 +30 56
3 Atletico Madrid 26 +23 51
4 Real Sociedad 26 +11 48
5 Real Betis 26 +8 45
6 Villarreal 26 +8 41
7 Athletic Club 26 +8 36
8 Rayo Vallecano 26 +1 36
9 Osasuna 26 -5 34
10 Celta Vigo 26 -3 34
11 Mallorca 26 -5 32
12 Girona 26 -1 31
13 Getafe 26 -7 29
14 Sevilla 26 -13 28
15 Cádiz 26 -17 28
16 Real Valladolid 26 -18 28
17 Espanyol 26 -10 27
18 Valencia 26 -3 26
19 Almería 26 -15 26
20 Elche 26 -32 13