It had been 14 years since Athletic last won at the Santiago Bernabéu going into Sunday’s match against Real Madrid. Los Blancos may have nothing left to play for this season, but the Basques knew that it would be a very difficult fixture. From the opening whistle it was a physical game with both sides looking to control the ball and not afraid to take chances going forward.
Real Madrid enjoyed more possession in the first half, creating a few half-chances with Marcelo and Karim Benzema. The Athletic defense held strong and Iago Herrerín wasn’t forced to make any saves. Not to be outdone, the Lions also generated some danger though they were unable to test the goalkeeper. With the match still scoreless after 45 minutes it would be decided in the second half.
Karim Benzema would quickly open up the scoring in the 47th minute with a strong header in the box. He found space in between Yeray and Iñigo Martinez who weren’t able to challenge him in the air. Real Madrid then turned up the pressure even more and forced Athletic to defend deep in the own zone. The game would eventually open back up and Garitano brought on Aritz Aduriz and Unai López in the 76th minute with hopes of finding the equalizer.
They wouldn’t have the chance to even touch the ball before Real Madrid doubled their lead through another Benzema header from a corner kick. Athletic started sending even more players forward and nearly found the back of the next. Aduriz had a free header that was sent over the crossbar and Iñaki Williams had another saved by Keylor Navas. Benzema would add his third of the night in stoppage time when Herrerín failed to clear a ball and left the goal open.
The 3-0 defeat was extremely disappointing for Athletic, but the Lions still control 7th place in the table. European qualification is still in their own hands and they must quickly turn their attention to Wednesday’s match against Leganés at San Mamés. A win could see the Zurigorri put pressure on 6th place with just five games left to be played this season.