Real Madrid 1-1 Athletic Club: Kepa Arrizabalaga Silences The Bernabeu
Coming off of a disappointing loss to Deportivo, things did not look good for Athletic Club as they walked into the Santiago Bernabeu. The Lions had not won a game there since 2005 and, with Real Madrid in peak form lately, it didn’t look promising for the Basques. Looking past the history, it was clear that Athletic meant business from the opening whistle. They pressed Real Madrid aggressively and were not afraid to take chances. It wouldn’t take long for their efforts to pay off.
Just 14 minutes into the game Iñaki Williams was played in behind the defense through a beautiful pass. He had only the keeper to beat but was at a tight angle and decided to chip the ball over Keylor Navas. The attempt worked perfectly and Athletic took an early and surprising 1-0 lead as the Santiago Bernabeu were stunned. From there it was the home side that went on the offense, forcing the Lions to defend deep in their own half and take their chances on counter attacks. The longer the game wore on, the more dangerous the home side looked.
Despite all their efforts, Kepa Arrizabalaga continued to make big saves to keep Real Madrid off the scoreboard to the dismay of the home fans. Whether it was parrying away a close shot or claiming a dangerous cross out of the air, the keeper was in spectacular form and could not be beaten. The halftime whistle came soon with Real Madrid wondering what they needed to do break through the Basque defense and level the score. When the second half started it was much the same. Athletic continued to look for Iñaki Williams on the counter while the defense remained compact.
At the hour mark there was a bit of controversy as Cristiano Ronaldo was played into the box. Unai Nuñez ran him down and proceeded to shoulder him off the ball and to the ground. The Bernabeu called for a penalty but the referee immediately waved play on. It was at that point that the game opened up with both sides taking more risks which led to a tense end to the game. Raúl García had a chance to double the lead when the ball fell to him in the box. Instead of settling, he struck at goal and saw his shot hit the crossbar. Still, Real Madrid kept their foot on the gas pedal and Athletic did all they could to clear the ball when they won possession, but they couldn’t hold back their hosts forever.
In the 87th minute the ball fell to Luka Modric outside the box. The midfielder blasted a shot at goal that looked to be heading out for a goal kick. Instead, Ronaldo was able to clip the ball in the air and redirect it past Kepa who could do nothing but watch as Real Madrid leveled the score at 1-1. After three minutes of stoppage time the final whistle finally blew with Athletic unable to hold their lead, but still walking away with a massive point on the road. Fans could be nothing but proud of the Basque giants who are still alive in the fight for seventh place.