Benzema leads Real Madrid fightback in 2-1 win over Elche

Karim Benzema scores two late goals as Real Madrid avoids a costly slip in its La Liga contest against Elche.

Karim Benzema (right) celebrates after scoring Real Madrid’s second goal.   -  REUTERS

For the second time in a week, Karim Benzema came to the rescue of Real Madrid’s Spanish league title defence with goals in the final minutes.

MATCH CENTRE

Benzema scored two late goals to lead a 2-1 comeback win and avoid a costly slip to modest Elche on Saturday. The French striker’s brace came six days after his 88th-minute goal salvaged a 1-1 draw with league leader Atlético Madrid.

Elche defender Dani Calvo headed the visitor in front in the 61st minute at Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium. But Benzema responded with a 73rd-minute equaliser and added an exquisite half-volley from the side of the area for the injury-time winner.

“It wasn’t an easy game against a team that was well organised. We know that we have to make an extra effort to get to the top of the table,” Benzema said after taking his team-high tally to 20 goals in all competitions this season.

Second-place Madrid is five points behind Atlético, which crosses Spain’s capital to play Getafe later. Barcelona was left one point behind Madrid in third place before it hosts Huesca on Monday.

ALSO READ | Levante beats Valencia in La Liga derby

Showing no sense of urgency, Madrid looked set to pay for its complacency against an Elche side whose goal is to avoid relegation. Elche won its fair share of possession and limited Madrid to a tame shot by Isco — until Benzema worked his heroics with the team’s title hopes at risk.

Coach Zinedine Zidane had left midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos on the bench to rest them for Madrid’s upcoming Champions League match against Atalanta.

But after Calvo's opener, the two playmakers went on and had a quick impact. Modric took a pass from Kroos before he floated a cross to the far post for Benzema to jump over his marker and nod the ball home.

 

Elche retreated into its area as Madrid pressed for a second goal. Casemiro had already threatened twice before Benzema exchanged passes with substitute Rodrygo and blasted a left-footed shot from the left side of the area beyond the reach of goalkeeper Edgar Badía. “The players who came on gave us a different look. My second goal was pretty and worth three points, so I am as happy as can be,” Benzema said.

Both Sergio Ramos and Eden Hazard played their first matches after being sidelined for several weeks with leg injuries. Ramos played an hour as a starter. Hazard played the final quarter of an hour.

Madrid will host Atalanta on Tuesday in the round of 16 of the Champions League after winning the away leg 1-0.

“I like the character my team showed,” Zidane said. “Our comeback is positive both for the league and to prepare for Tuesday’s match.”

ALL RESULTS

Getafe 0-0 Atletico Madrid

Osasuna 0-0 Real Valladolid

Real Madrid 2-1 Elche

Alaves 1-1 Cadiz