Espanyol 0-1 Real Madrid: Casemiro strikes as Los Blancos go two points clear on top of La Liga after Karim Benzema’s sublime back-heel.
This time, the French forward was not the recipient, but the creator. And AS dubbed it the ‘heel of gold’. It arrived just before half time in a fairly insipid display from Los Blancos.
While facing in the opposite direction, Benzema flicked a pass through his marker’s legs, past another defender and into the path of Casemiro for a simple finish which handed Zinedine Zidane‘s side claim a two-point lead over Barcelona in La Liga.
“He is a player who invents things on the pitch,” Zidane said afterward. “It could be one of the best plays of the league.”
The striker played down the move. “It was a good play, but the most important thing was the goal,” Benzema said. And asked how he comes up with it, he replied: “That’s how I see football.”
Often a goal is more about the architect than the finisher and this was one example. “The goal is Karim’s,” Casemiro said.
“It’s unfair to talk about my goal. His back-heel is a luxury. Knowing Karim, what he did is normal. His quality is 10 (out of 10). The goal is his.”
In the same fixture last season, Benzema produced a masterclass in a 4-2 win for Santiago Solari’s side and this time, he made the difference again at an empty RCDE Stadium.
Watching at home after his recent sacking as Almeria coach, Guti approved as well. “Magic my friend,” the former midfielder tweeted alongside a picture of the play at Riazor. “Brutal.”
It was a piece of play which would be worthy of deciding the championship and it could still.
In the end, this trip to an Espanyol side rooted to the bottom and without a proper coach after sacking Abelardo on Saturday proved much more difficult than expected, but results matter more than performances at this stage and Madrid came through theirs after Barcelona dropped points at Celta Vigo the previous day.
Barca coach Quique Setien said on Friday that he remained ‘convinced’ Madrid would drop points at some stage and having returned from the enforced break due to coronavirus with an advantage, the champions now need Los Blancos to slip up.
There are still six rounds left and 18 points up for grabs for each, but this week could be crucial in the title race.
Barcelona, seemingly fragile after two draws since the restart and a couple of unconvincing wins at Camp Nou, are at home to in-form Atletico Madrid on Tuesday and then away to Villarreal on Sunday.
And Madrid, with an impeccable record since LaLiga resumed but not exactly in sparkling form themselves, host Getafe on Thursday and then travel to Athletic Club for another tough test – also on Sunday.
“There are six games left and this will be decided in the last round,” Zidane said. “We have to fight in every match.
“Today it was second (Madrid) against the last (Espanyol). In this league, you never know.”
Thanks to Benzema, Los Blancos have the edge. And if they are still there in a week’s time, the title may well be theirs.