Millennium Post

Real Madrid beat Bilbao 2-1, go five points ahead of Barcelona

Real Madrid extended their lead on the top of the table today as they beat a spirited Athetic Bilbao side 2-1 at the San Mames Stadium.

Riding on goals from Benzema and Casemiro, Real Madrid accumulated 65 points from 27 matches and are now 5 points ahead of Barcelona who play fifth placed Valencia tomorrow night. Madrid also have a game in hand.

It were Bilbao who had the first serious chance at the goal in the 8th minute when Raul Garcia connected with a good cross from the left but Navas was up to the task and saved the volley.

The next minute itself, Cristiano Ronaldo netted in Real's first serious attack only to be called rightly offside.

The home team seemed to be pumped as they kept raiding Los Blancos' half and in the 16th minute, they came dangerously close when Yeray's effort went just wide.

Real weren't backing down either and Kepa had to make a save off Ronaldo's low strike on the other end.

In the 20th minute, Real Madrid's recent saving duo Sergio Ramos and Toni Kroos came tantalisingly close to putting Real ahead when Ramos headed Kroos' free kick just wide.

Goals didn't elude the European champions for long as Real displayed their classic self in the 25th minute when Ronaldo raced down on the left before squaring the ball to Benzema in the centre and the French made no mistake and shot the ball into the far corner.

Just two minutes later, Ronaldo raced down again but this time in the centre and passed the ball to Bale on the right whose powerful shot was saved by the Bilbao keeper.

The game took an ugly turn thereon as a few ill exchanges between the two teams led to Aduriz (Bilbao) and Carvajal (Real Madrid) getting in the book of the referee. Just a minute later, Casemiro got booked for a foul on Aduriz.

Despite the exchanges, the chances kept coming for both the teams. In the 34th minute, Navas was spot on as he saved Garcia's close range header and two minutes later, Madrid got a lovely chance as Marcelo delivered a pin-point pass towards Benzema but the striker was unable to make contact with it.

Challenges flew around and both the teams played hard for chances but the scoreline read 1-0 in favour of Real Madrid at the break.

Bilbao began the second half on the frontfoot creating two chances in two minutes where Navas yet again commanding and big. Athletic, despite being able to go upfront, lacked the finish that helped Madrid survive.

In the 51st minute, Marcelo won the ball in the midfield and put a delightful pass on the right to Benzema but the linesman flagged the Frenchman offside.

Bilbao came extremely close to getting the equaliser in the 63rd minute when Garcia let through a low cross to Williams who sweeped it in the bottom corner only for Navas to make a big save.

Just a minute later, a similar move from Bilbao followed and they finally got the reward of their efforts. William delivered a beautiful cross from the right to the far post where Garcia headed it towards Aduriz in the centre who nodded the ball home.

Real Madrid dished out an immediate response to the equaliser when Casemiro calmly slotted home in the 69th minute after Ronaldo knocked down a Kroos corner and the home side failed to deal with it.

Soon in the 72nd minute, Real had a brilliant chance to extend their lead when Marcelo neatly cut back to Benzema who unselfishly passed the ball to Ronaldo. Ronaldo's subsequent shot was deflected to Marcelo who kicked the ball flying.

Bilbao kept making strides upfront with William's pace troubling Marcelo time and again. In the 78th minute, William drilled a low shot at the goal that was saved by Navas with the tip of his hand.

With the big spaces in Real's back and the ability of Bilbao to cut through spaces, Navas had a busy night.

Despite Bilbao's agility, Real held on to the scoreline to strengthen their hold on the top spot of the La Liga table.
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