BILBAO, Spain, Dec 23 – Karim Benzema scored the goals in Real Madrid’s 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday to send Carlo Ancelotti’s side into the winter break eight points clear atop La Liga.
As Real ended the year with a bang, city rivals and defending champions Atletico Madrid suffered their fourth straight defeat, a 2-1 reverse at Granada, to leave them fifth but a yawning 17 points adrift.
Benzema ultimately put the fixture out of reach of Real’s Basque hosts in a matter of minutes, Oihan Sancet pulling one back wth his speedy 10th minute reply which hit the woodwork before evading Thibaut Cortois.
Benzema’s 14th and 15th goals of the season consolidated his position at the top of the league’s goalscoring chart.
Earlier Atlético’s shaky defence of their La Liga crown took another big hit with injured duo Antoine Griezmann and Stefan Savic absent.
Atletico would be more than happy to swop trajectories with Granada for whom this was a third consecutive win in front of their home fans and their fifth game without loss.
This was certainly not how Diego Simeone envisaged the night before his 10th year anniversary in charge at Atletico.
What’s more his Portuguese striker Joao Felix had Granada on the backfoot in the second minute when his low angled shot got the better of his fellow countryman Luis Maximiano.
Venezuelan forward Darwin Machis levelled in the 17th minute.
Felix had a header arguably harshly disallowed as the first half drew to a close with Jorge Molina grabbing the winner after the hour mark for Granada.