Real Madrid Striker Benzema Tests Positive For COVID-19

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 3, 2021 Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema reacts during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid CF and SD Eibar at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas on the outskirts of Madrid. – Benzema has tested positive for Covid-19, the Spanish club announced on July 23, 2021. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

 

 

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has tested positive for coronavirus, the club has confirmed.

In a short statement on their official website issued on Friday morning, Madrid said: “Real Madrid C.F. confirm that our player Karim Benzema has tested positive for Covid-19.”

The France international will now self-isolate for a period of time away from his teammates as new manager Carlo Ancelotti prepares for the new season.

England Face Germany In Euro 2020 Blockbuster After France Make Shock Exit

England’s defender Kyle Walker (C) takes part in an MD-1 training session at the team’s base camp in St George’s Park in Burton-on-Trent, on June 28, 2021, on the eve of their UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match against Germany. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

 

 

England can avenge decades of hurt at the hands of Germany when they face their old rivals in a blockbuster Euro 2020 last-16 clash on Tuesday after the tournament was rocked by France’s stunning exit.

Gareth Southgate’s side host Germany at Wembley at 1600 GMT in what is England’s biggest match on home turf for 25 years.

England beat the Germans to win the 1966 World Cup final, but their major tournament history has been littered with painful exits against them since then.

 

Germany supporters pose before the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 28, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / various sources / AFP)

 

A quarter-final loss at the 1970 World Cup ended England’s reign as champions, while the 1990 World Cup semi-final defeat on penalties is still etched in the nation’s psyche.

When England last played at home in a tournament, Southgate was the Euro 96 fall guy as he missed a crucial penalty in the semi-final shoot-out defeat.

There was also a heavy defeat at the 2010 World Cup yet Southgate, aware of the debilitating weight of that history, insists the tie is not a chance to exorcise the ghosts of past England failures.

Instead, he believe it is a chance for his players to add a memorable new chapter to their personal stories.

“This team, I’ve said for a long time, have had so many unique achievements and my focus is on this team and helping them to succeed,” Southgate said.

“This is about our players. This is their moment and it’s their opportunity.”

– ‘Loser goes home’ –
Asked if perhaps his Euro 96 pain would give his players extra motivation to win it for him, Southgate said: “Good grief, no. I don’t think we’ll be relying on that!

“So, no, this is about them. This is about them having a chance to achieve something, and certainly not for me to take any shine off of that.”

England have never won the European Championship and a victory against Germany would be only their second knockout stage win in the history of the competition.

In contrast, Germany have been crowned kings of Europe three times, with the most recent success coming in 1996.

However, Germany travelled to London in the unusual position of fearing defeat against England.

Joachim Loew’s team stumbled into the last 16 after rescuing a 2-2 draw against Hungary in their final group game.

Germany are not the intimidating force of old and, with Loew stepping down at the end of the tournament, a defeat would signal the end of an era.

Despite winning the World Cup in 2014, Loew has been criticised for his role in a humiliating group-stage exit from the 2018 World Cup and a series of poor results before the Euro.

“All in all, I thought about it for two seconds,” said Loew ahead of potentially his last game.

“This is my passion. My whole focus is on the match and I hope we will succeed.”

England will have the vast majority of a 40,000 crowd on their side at Wembley and Loew expects a spine-tingling encounter.

“This is a match which electrifies everybody. For both teams, it’s in or out, it’s now or never, the loser goes home,” he said.

The winner will face a quarter-final in Rome against the winner of Tuesday’s late tie between Sweden and Ukraine, which will be played in Glasgow.

 

TOPSHOT – France’s forward Kylian Mbappe (L) reacts to his miss as Switzerland’s goalkeeper Yann Sommer celebrates his save during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 28, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / POOL / AFP)

 

France’s forward Kylian Mbappe reacts after missing a penalty in the penalty shootout during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 28, 2021. (Photo by Justin Setterfield / POOL / AFP)

 

– Mbappe misses decisive penalty –
Whatever happens on Tuesday it will struggle to live up to the drama of Monday, when world champions France suffered a stunning defeat against Switzerland, losing 5-4 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw in Bucharest as Kylian Mbappe missed the vital kick.

France trailed to Haris Seferovic’s first-half header and could have fallen further behind when Ricardo Rodriguez’s 55th-minute penalty was saved by Hugo Lloris.

Karim Benzema scored twice in 244 seconds immediately after that miss to put France ahead.

Paul Pogba increased their lead with a stunning strike, but Seferovic struck again in the 81st minute and Mario Gavranovic equalised in stoppage time.

Yann Sommer was Switzerland’s hero in the shootout as the goalkeeper saved Mbappe’s penalty to seal an incredible giant-killing.

“Penalties are always cruel for one team and unfortunately it was us,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.

“We are not used to it, but we will have to accept it.”

 

Switzerland’s goalkeeper Yann Sommer reacts after saving a shot by France’s forward Kylian Mbappe in the penalty shootout during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between France and Switzerland at the National Arena in Bucharest on June 28, 2021. (Photo by Justin Setterfield / POOL / AFP)

 

In the quarter-finals, Switzerland face Spain, who hit back for an epic 5-3 extra-time win against Croatia after blowing the lead in Copenhagen.

Pablo Sarabia, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres netted to put Spain 3-1 ahead with 13 minutes left after Pedri’s own goal had given Croatia the lead.

Mislav Orsic and Mario Pasalic scored in the last five minutes to force extra time, but Spain prevailed thanks to goals from Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal.

Benzema Delighted To Lift ‘Pressure’ With First Goals Since France Return

From L: France’s midfielder Paul Pogba, France’s coach Didier Deschamps, France’s forward Karim Benzema, France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Portugal’s midfielder Bruno Fernandes react after the UEFA EURO 2020 Group F football match between Portugal and France at Puskas Arena in Budapest on June 23, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / POOL / AFP)

 

Karim Benzema said he was delighted to score his first goals for France since 2015 against Portugal on Wednesday, as there was “a little pressure” on him across the country.

The Real Madrid striker was brought back for Euro 2020 by coach Didier Deschamps after a five-and-a-half year exile from international football over his alleged role in a blackmail plot.

Benzema failed to score in his first four matches since returning for France, who won the 2018 World Cup without him.

But he netted a first-half penalty in the final Group F game against Portugal before slotting in a second to end his long wait.

“A lot of joy, a lot of pride,” he said to BeIN Sports.

“I think everyone was waiting for it. There was a little pressure on me from all over the country but I’m a footballer, a professional — I need that pressure.”

A 2-2 draw, which also saw Cristiano Ronaldo score twice to equal the all-time international goalscoring record, sent France through as group winners.

Deschamps’ men will face Switzerland in the last 16 on Monday in Bucharest.

 

France’s forward Karim Benzema (R) fights for the ball with Portugal’s forward Diogo Jota during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group F football match between Portugal and France at Puskas Arena in Budapest on June 23, 2021. (Photo by BERNADETT SZABO / POOL / AFP)

 

“He (Benzema) was looking for that. He hasn’t lost his confidence, or mine,” Deschamps told TF1.

“We will recover well and then we’ll prepare for that (Switzerland game) as well as possible.”

‘I Want A Trophy’ – Benzema Eyes Silverware After Long France Exile

Chelsea’s Brazilian defender Thiago Silva (R) vies with Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema during the UEFA Champions League second leg semi-final football match between Chelsea and Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on May 5, 2021. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

 

 

Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema said he’s targeting a trophy with France after he was recalled to their provisional Euro 2020 squad following a controversial, six-year international exile.

The prolific star, sidelined by Les Bleus since 2015 over his alleged role in a blackmail plot, missed out on France’s 2018 World Cup win and their run to the Euro 2016 final on home soil.

Benzema, 33, told L’Equipe he was “proud” of his call-up, which followed talks with France coach Didier Deschamps earlier this month.

“I want to win a trophy with the French team,” he said, adding that he hoped to “bring a little bit extra” to the World Cup-winners.

Benzema, who has 27 goals in 81 international appearances, was last week named as this season’s best French foreign-based player by the country’s players’ association.

He top-scored for Real Madrid with 29 goals this term, passing 20 league goals in all three seasons since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018.

Benzema has repeatedly criticised Deschamps and the French Football Federation for being dropped, citing racism as a factor in his axing from the Euro 2016 squad.

But he said those differences were in the past after his conversation with the coach.

“We said many things. Things that we needed to say for a long time. It was a good explanation, with important words,” Benzema said.

He added: “I’m not coming to the French team to overshadow anyone or to take anyone’s place. … I am here to bring what I know.”

France kick off their Euro 2020 campaign against three-time winners Germany in Munich on June 15, and also face Hungary and holders Portugal in Group F.

‘I Want A Trophy’ – Benzema Eyes Silverware After Long France Exile

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 9, 2015 France’s forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the friendly football match between France and Armenia at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, southeastern France. French head coach Deschamps calls Benzema back into the national team for the upcoming Euro, AFP reports on May 18, 2021.
Valery HACHE / AFP

 

Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema said he’s targeting a trophy with France after he was recalled to their provisional Euro 2020 squad following a controversial, six-year international exile.

The prolific star, sidelined by Les Bleus since 2015 over his alleged role in a blackmail plot, missed out on France’s 2018 World Cup win and their run to the Euro 2016 final on home soil.

Benzema, 33, told L’Equipe he was “proud” of his call-up, which followed talks with France coach Didier Deschamps earlier this month.

“I want to win a trophy with the French team,” he said, adding that he hoped to “bring a little bit extra” to the World Cup-winners.

Benzema, who has 27 goals in 81 international appearances, was last week named as this season’s best French foreign-based player by the country’s players’ association.

He top-scored for Real Madrid with 29 goals this term, passing 20 league goals in all three seasons since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018.

Benzema has repeatedly criticised Deschamps and the French Football Federation for being dropped, citing racism as a factor in his axing from the Euro 2016 squad.

But he said those differences were in the past after his conversation with the coach.

“We said many things. Things that we needed to say for a long time. It was a good explanation, with important words,” Benzema said.

He added: “I’m not coming to the French team to overshadow anyone or to take anyone’s place. … I am here to bring what I know.”

France kick off their Euro 2020 campaign against three-time winners Germany in Munich on June 15 and also face Hungary and holders Portugal in Group F.

-AFP

Benzema Embodies Survival Spirit After Leading Another Real Madrid Recovery

Chelsea’s French midfielder N’Golo Kante (2R) challenges Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Real Madrid and Chelsea at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on April 27, 2021. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

 

 

Real Madrid might not reach the Champions League final but Karim Benzema has given them a chance, his genius against Chelsea the embodiment of a team that still never knows when it is beaten.

Benzema’s thunderbolt volley gives Madrid parity at the end of a first leg that could have been won decisively by Chelsea, who were the superior team overall and, for 25 minutes, made their opponents look weary, rigid, even out of date.

But the most recent additions to Real Madrid’s 13 European Cups have come from their ability to bend these matches to their will, to weather the storms and then accelerate when the wind is behind them.

Again and again, they have shown themselves to be masters of moments, their belief that in the end they will win creating certainty when it is needed most and for their opponents, doubt, just when they think they have the upper hand.

It comes from a history of success and the hubris of a club convinced it has earned the right even to play in a Super League, only ever against the biggest teams, bypassing the need to qualify, and for theoretical fans that see Real Madrid winning as the beginning and end of the sport.

It comes from a coach too in Zinedine Zidane, whose philosophy is not so much possession or pressing but calm, and players, like Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and on Tuesday night, Benzema.

Eight minutes before his goal, it was Benzema stirring the first signs of recovery. He robbed the ball off Antonio Rudiger on the halfway line and played two passes, each time demanding it back, before circling into the centre and firing off a shot that shaved the outside of the post.

In the stadium, it was a trigger, Madrid’s substitutes raised to their feet and Ramos behind them also standing up, flapping his hands and shouting “Come on guys! That’s it! A bit more now! Believe!”

Chelsea’s were still in charge but from that moment their dominance began to fade. Benzema turbo-charged another counter-attack down the right, his punching pass out to Toni Kroos on the opposite side the one that led to Kroos winning the corner, that led to Benzema throwing his body at the ball and the ball flying into Chelsea’s net.

 

Chelsea’s German defender Antonio Ruediger (C) challenges Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Real Madrid and Chelsea at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on April 27, 2021. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

 

‘No doubts’ Benzema among the best

“Benzema took responsibility in reviving the belief of a team that appeared to be creaking, and to a large extent they are, but so often they find something more,” wrote El Pais.

Marca said: “There are no doubts remaining that Benzema belongs to the most distinguished class of footballers.” “He woke the team up,” wrote AS.

When Benzema signed his first professional contract with Lyon, he was made to give an initiation speech at a squad dinner and the cocky 20-year-old irked some of the senior players by telling them he would soon be taking their place.

Thirteen years later, he is the fourth most prolific goalscorer in the history of the Champions League, level on 71 with Raul, behind only Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski.

If recognition has come late, it is in part because Benzema has saved his best until last, his flourishing into a graceful but deadly number nine occurring after many had perhaps made their minds up: Ronaldo’s support act could never be among the very best himself.

And yet just as his late equaliser against Atletico Madrid last month gave Real Madrid life in La Liga, it was his intervention against Chelsea that has now them alive in the Champions League too.

“Nothing surprises me about Karim,” said Zidane, who had earlier taken him off in the 89th minute, the kind of substitution usually designed to give the home crowd the chance to applaud.

Instead, Zidane stepped in, smiling, whispering, an arm around his shoulder, another moment seized and the final still in sight.

La Liga: Benzema To The Rescue Again As Madrid Beat Elche

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid and Elche at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, northeast of Madrid, on March 13, 2021. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid and Elche at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, northeast of Madrid, on March 13, 2021. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Karim Benzema saved Real Madrid for the second week running on Saturday, his two goals dragging his team to a 2-1 win over struggling Elche in La Liga. 

After Benzema’s late equaliser salvaged a draw against Atletico Madrid last weekend, the Frenchman came up trumps again, a brilliant shot flying in off the post in the 91st minute to snatch a crucial home victory at Valdebebas.

Real Madrid move five points behind Atletico in La Liga although Diego Simeone’s team can restore their advantage to eight by beating Getafe later on Saturday.

READ ALSO: Lewandowski Equals Goal Milestone As Bayern Power Past Bremen

Barcelona, who are six points back, face bottom club Huesca on Monday.

Benzema recovered from injury just in time to play Atletico and his three goals since have earned his team four points in seven days, while also denying Atletico a crucial win.

After heading in the equaliser against Elche, Benzema delivered a special winner, catching the ball in the air with a superb shot that found the far corner.

“It was a beautiful goal and it won us three points, so I’m happier than ever,” he said.

Sergio Ramos returned from a knee injury to make his first appearance since January, although the defender came off shortly after an hour, meaning his availability for Tuesday’s Champions League game at home to Atalanta is perhaps not guaranteed.

Eden Hazard, who has also been out since January, came off the bench in the second half and could play in midweek, when Madrid will start with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg.

Toni Kroos and Luka Modric were rested, perhaps with that game in mind, but both were needed by Zidane before the end.

And a change in system to three at the back was not an obvious success as Zidane’s team struggled to break down an Elche side that sit 17th.

“Against teams that sit back, it’s always difficult,” said Zidane. “We had to find a solution and in the end we found a gap.”

Madrid were the better team in the first half but there was hardly a chance to show for it, the only real opening falling to Benzema at the back post as Fede Valverde released Vinicius Junior down the right but his cross bounced awkwardly for Benzema, who shot wide.

Both sides wanted penalties early in the second half, with Elche’s Ivan Marcone fortunate to be awarded a free-kick when he looked more culpable in a tangle with Ramos.

Then Ramos escaped punishment for a challenge on Guido Carrillo.

Shortly after, Elche took the lead. Ramos shielded his eyes as if struggling with the sun and the corner found Dani Calvo, who climbed above Raphael Varane to head in off the crossbar.

Ramos, Isco and Fede Valverde made way for Modric, Kroos and Rodrygo, and 10 minutes later Madrid were level. Modric collected a short corner and swung a cross into the back post, where Benzema nodded in.

There were 17 minutes left to find a winner but it came in injury-time. Benzema scooped the ball up to Rodrygo on the edge of the area. He cushioned it back to the striker, who caught the ball in the air with a brilliant shot that flew in off the far post.

 

AFP

In-Form Benzema Has Madrid On ‘Right Track’ For Title Charge

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema eyes on the ball prior to shooting and scoring his second goal during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Valencia CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on June 18, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema eyes on the ball prior to shooting and scoring his second goal during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Valencia CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on June 18, 2020.
JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Real Madrid’s top scorer this season Karim Benzema said the La Liga champions are “on the right track” ahead of potentially returning to the top of table with a win at Eibar on Sunday.

Madrid, who last led the league last season, trail leaders Atletico Madrid and second-placed Real Sociedad on goal difference after a Benzema double in Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao took his tally up to 10 across all competitions for the campaign.

Coach Zinedine Zidane had been under pressure following a run of three games without a win in November with Spanish press linking former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino and ex-Madrid forward Raul forward to the Frenchman’s job.

“We are on the right track. We work together, we score goals, we don’t concede,” Benzema told the club’s television channel.

“We have to continue game by game. They are all finals and three points,” the 32-year-old added.

Zidane hailed Benzema, who last played for France in 2015, as the best centre-forward in their country’s history after his midweek performance.

The World Cup winner praised Benzema’s selfless efforts with the forward supplying three assists this term.

“That’s why I like him so much, I love him, he’s not only thinking about goals,” he said.

“He gets involved in the game, if he needs to pass to a teammate he’ll do it.”

Before Madrid’s trip to the Basque Country late on Sunday, Atletico host 14th placed Elche on Saturday for their first league fixture since last weekend’s capital city derby loss to Zidane’s men.

Forward Diego Costa returned to training this week after recovering from thrombosis but is unlikely to feature for Diego Simeone’s side before the end of the calendar year.

Later on Saturday, early runaway leaders Real Sociedad head to Levante but have drawn their previous six fixtures in all competitions and will be without Belgium playmaker Adnan Januzaj due to a muscle problem.

Fifth-placed Barcelona welcome Valencia after defender Jordi Alba described Wednesday’s win over Real as their “best game of the season”.

It allowed the Catalans to move six points off the leaders ahead of this weekend.

Player to watch: Mikel OyarzabalSociedad’s captain has been sidelined with a muscle problem since December 3’s Europa League draw with Rijeka but could come back for the trip to Ciutat de Valencia.

The Spain attacker had scored seven goals and created three more, and the Basques failed to win and dropped down to second in his absence.

Fixtures (times GMT)

Friday

Athletic Bilbao v Huesca (2000)

Saturday

Atletico Madrid v Elche (1300), Barcelona v Valencia (1515), Levante v Real Sociedad, Osasuna v Villarreal (both 1730), Sevilla v Real Valladolid (2000)

Sunday

Celta Vigo v Alaves (1300), Granada v Real Betis (1515), Cadiz v Getafe (1730), Eibar v Real Madrid (2000)

Zidane Hails Benzema As Best Ever French Centre-Forward

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema (R) celebrates with Real Madrid’s French coach Zinedine Zidane after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Athletic Club Bilbao at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Madrid on December 15, 2020. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP).

 

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane hailed Karim Benzema as the best centre-forward in French history after his match-winning double against Athletic Bilbao put them joint top of La Liga on Tuesday.

Bilbao’s Ander Capa had cancelled out Toni Kroos’s thumping strike before Benzema, 32, struck twice late on, heading home a cross with 16 minutes remaining and finishing clinically in stoppage time from Luka Modric’s pass.

Afterwards Zidane had no hesitation in declaring Benzema as France’s best ever centre-forward, putting him at the top of a list that includes Thierry Henry, Kylian Mbappe, Jean-Pierre Papin and Just Fontaine.

“For me, he’s the best — it’s very clear,” said Zidane, the French midfield legend who won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 with Les Bleus.

“He’s proved it — he’s played at Real Madrid for a very long time, he has more than 500 appearances, all his goals… his record, all he’s accomplished here speaks for itself,” Zidane added.

Benzema arrived at Real Madrid from Lyon in 2009, but was long overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo until the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s move to Juventus in 2018.

READ ALSO: WHO Urges Use Of Masks During Christmas Celebration

On Saturday, Benzema’s 529th match for Real, he broke Roberto Carlos’s record for the most appearances by a non-Spanish player. Benzema is also their top scorer this season.

“He’s a more mature player these days,” said Zidane. “But he’s always shown that he’s not a pure nine, he doesn’t only think about scoring.

“That’s why I like him so much, I love him, he’s not only thinking about goals. He gets involved in the game, if he needs to pass to a teammate he’ll do it.”

Third-placed Madrid gained their fourth straight win in all competitions and are equal on 26 points with Real Sociedad, who face troubled Barcelona at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, and city rivals Atletico Madrid.

Barca are nine points back but play one of their two games in hand in the hope of giving some momentum to what has been a miserable season so far.

 

Real Madrid Gathering Momentum After Levante Victory

Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior (C) celebrates his goal with teammates during the Spanish League football match between Levante UD and Real Madrid CF at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on October 4, 2020. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP).

 

Real Madrid moved to the top of La Liga on Sunday as Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema both scored in a 2-0 win over Levante.

Vinicius, who had proved decisive in Madrid’s win over Real Valladolid on Wednesday, looked set to see off Levante as well, before Benzema notched his first goal of the season late on.

Madrid have now recorded three clean sheets from their four opening games, although a draw away at Real Sociedad has given an early advantage to Barcelona, who play away at Sevilla later on Sunday.

“We had to suffer,” said Zinedine Zidane. “We had chances in the second half to kill the game and that would have made it different. We suffered a lot because they also had chances.”

Madrid and Barca had earlier played out the first ever women’s Clasico after Madrid finally launched their female team this season. Yet Barcelona showed their superiority in a 4-0 rout.

But the men’s team have become something of a defensive juggernaut under Zidane after their solidity and resilience formed the basis of their successful title bid last term.

They have 10 points from 12 available, after three consecutive wins.

Levante, meanwhile, have managed only one victory from first four matches and this defeat means they drop into the relegation places.

Vinicius gave Madrid the lead after 16 minutes when Levante failed to clear a corner and the Brazilian calmly curled in for his second goal in two games.

He could have made it two but overhit a pass intended for Benzema and then Levante hit the crossbar, Nikola Vuckevic at the back post almost capitalising on some hesitation from Thibaut Courtois.

Levante found it difficult to cope with Madrid’s pressing and Benzema and Vinicius both should scored when twice they won the ball back in dangerous positions.

Sergio Ramos also had a headed goal ruled out for offside but Levante went close to a late equaliser as Clerc and Enis Bardhi both tested Courtois.

But Benzema tore away on the break in injury-time and finished to complete a convincing win.

AFP

Benzema Delivers Again As Real Beat Espanyol

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match against RCD Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on December 7, 2019.PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

 

Real Madrid were without Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale on Saturday but Karim Benzema stepped up again to ensure they beat struggling Espanyol in La Liga.

Benzema scored one and set up another in a 2-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Real wore an all-green kit to show support for this week’s Climate Summit in the city.

Victory means Zinedine Zidane’s side move to the top of the table, for a few hours at least, before Barcelona play later at home to Real Mallorca.

Espanyol, who have not won in six league games, stay 19th.

An ankle injury is likely to rule Hazard out of the season’s first Clasico on December 18 while Bale has a thigh problem and is also a concern ahead of that crunch game at Camp Nou.

But another excellent Benzema display will at least be of some consolation after he teed up Raphael Varane before scoring his 15th goal this term to put Espanyol out of sight.

“We’re talking about Karim a lot recently, in a good way,” said Zidane. “He’s getting older and that’s made a difference, his maturity.

“None of us are perfect. But he’s asked to chase and he does it. He’s asked to score and he does it. I can’t ask for more, only that he keeps doing it.”

Increasingly it looks like the winner of the Clasico will spend the Christmas break first in the table, with the top two pulling away from the likes of Atletico Madrid, who drew away at Villarreal on Friday.

Sevilla, in third, are four points behind Zidane’s side before they travel to Osasuna on Sunday.

– Vinicius praise –

The absence of Hazard and Bale meant Rodrygo came in on the right of the front three while Vinicius Junior was given a rare chance to stake a claim on the left.

Vinicius’ last start came in the defeat to Mallorca on October 19 and the 19-year-old, who has been out of favour under Zidane, impressed with a daring and dynamic performance.

“He always wants to score goals, that is his job, but we have to highlight everything else he did today,” said Zidane. “He had chances, played well offensively and defensively. And also after playing less recently. He has done well.”

Vinicius may now be given another outing against Club Brugge in the Champions League on Wednesday when Madrid are likely to rest key players given their qualification as runners-up is already guaranteed.

Vinicius looked eager to make an impact as he fired off an early shot from an acute angle and was then booked for a lunge at Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Espanyol had openings on the counter-attack, the best of them presented to Wu Lei, who was making history as the first-ever Chinese player to play at the Bernabeu. His header was saved by Thibaut Courtois.

Madrid’s goal came in the 37th minute and from an unlikely source as Varane stayed up following a corner and Benzema found him in space after bundling through on the edge of the box. With his left foot, Varane stabbed into the far corner.

Vinicius might have made it two after tearing clear on the break but failed to beat Lopez at his near post while shortly after half-time Lopez denied Benzema, who had also broken in behind.

Benzema missed another chance from a Vinicius cross but finally got his goal with 11 minutes left. He threaded in Fede Valverde with a smart reverse pass and then continued his run, before meeting the pull-back and finding the corner.

AFP

Benzema Hands Madrid Win Against Levante

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match Real Madrid CF against Levante UD at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on September 14, 2019.
CURTO DE LA TORRE / AFP

 

Karim Benzema scored twice on Saturday in an outstanding performance for Real Madrid against Levante, although his side was left hanging on for a 3-2 win on the day Eden Hazard made his La Liga debut.

The French striker’s goals came just six minutes apart in the first half on a wet afternoon at the Santiago Bernabeu, before Casemiro put Real 3-0 up.

However, Levante, who had won their previous two outings, made a fight of it in the second half as they pulled goals back through Borja Mayoral and Gonzalo Melero.

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While the manner of their victory was not as convincing as coach Zinedine Zidane might have wished, it was a welcome return to winning ways for Real after they had drawn their previous two games.

Hazard also came off the bench for the final half-hour to make his first appearance in La Liga after a thigh injury had interrupted the start of his Real career following his 100 million-euro ($110 million) move from Chelsea.

The Belgian could now start for Real when they go to Paris Saint-Germain for their opening Champions League game on Wednesday.

Gareth Bale will also be available for that match after suspension kept him out here, but Sergio Ramos will be unable to play against PSG because of a European ban.

Zidane was also without the injured Luka Modric here. However, as well as Hazard, fellow summer signing Eder Militao came off the bench in the second half and the former Porto defender could start in Paris in place of Ramos.

Barcelona Host Valencia

Real would have won by a greater margin here had it not been for some inspired goalkeeping from Aitor Fernandez, who produced a stunning one-handed stop to keep out a Benzema shot from the edge of the area midway through the first half.

However, the hosts went ahead shortly after that when Dani Carvajal held up a cross from the right for Benzema to bullet home a header from the edge of the six-yard area.

The Frenchman struck again in the 31st minute, with James Rodriguez pouncing when Sergio Postigo headed the ball down into his path and teeing up Benzema to score his fourth of the campaign.

Benzema was also involved in the build-up to the third goal five minutes before the interval, which concluded with Vinicius Junior squaring for Casemiro to apply the finish.

Levante pulled one back in the 49th minute as Carlos Clerc crossed from the left to the near post where Mayoral — on loan from Real — converted.

Benzema then curled a shot against the post, while Vinicius had a goal disallowed for offside and Hazard tested Fernandez, but it was Levante who scored again.

This time substitute Melero proved too strong for Carvajal at the far post as he headed in a marvellous cross by Jose Campana, yet Madrid held out.

Leaders Atletico Madrid will seek their fourth win in as many La Liga games when they play later at Real Sociedad in the first game at the Basque club’s newly refurbished stadium.

Barcelona are also in action at home to Valencia, who this week sacked coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, replacing him with the former Real Madrid assistant coach Albert Celades.

AFP