Bilbao, Spain, May 16 (EFE).- International Nacho Fernandez kept Real Madrid’s La Liga title hopes alive at San Mames stadium in Bilbao, Spain, on Sunday by scoring the only goal of the match against Athletic Bilbao.
The match was played before empty stands due to coronavirus gathering restrictions.
It was a hard-fought win – with lots of penalties called and yellow cards (and a red one) shown – but it was a well-deserved victory for the capital team. Nevertheless, it would have been sweeter if Atletico Madrid had dropped its match against Osasuna at Wanda Metropolitano stadium in the Spanish capital, thus allowing Real to vault into the No. 1 spot with just game remaining in the season.
Reports are that Real coach Zinedine Zidane has told his team he will step down at the end of the season, but for Sunday’s match he made two changes in the starting lineup, sending in Alvaro Odriozola and Miguel Gutierrez.
Although Zidane’s men got a considerable amount of possession time in the first half, they were unable to capitalize on anything and the match was scoreless at halftime, but in the 68th minute, Luka Modric finally sent in a nice shot-on-goal, although Unai Simon fielded it.
Just minutes later, in the 68th minute to be exact, Nacho was on the scene for the lone tally of the match, with the goal transpiring as follows.
After a Real corner kick, Athletic was unable to clear and Casemiro got hold of the ball, sending a cross right through Benzema’s legs to hit Nacho for his first goal of the season.
Although Benzema looked to be offside, a VAR review of the play revealed that not to be the case and the goal stayed on the board.
Raul Garcia was sent off the field by referee Antonio Mateo Lahoz in the 88th minute for an imprudent remark, and thus Athletic finished out the match a man short.
And yellow cards were handed to both coaches – Athletic’s Marcelino Garcia Toral and Zidane, the latter in the 91st minute.
Athletic: Unai Simon; De Marcos, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Balenziaga; Berenguer, Vencedor (Unai Lopez, m.72, Dani Garcia (Vesga, m.64), Morcillo (Raul Garcia, m.64); Sancet (Ibai, m.72) and Williams (Villalibre, m.64).
Real Madrid: Courtois; Odriozola, Militao, Nacho, Miguel; Casemiro, Fede Valverde, Modric; Vinicius (Asensio, m.59), Rodrygo (Hazard, m.77) and Benzema.
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz expelled Raul Garcia in the 89th minute for a contentious remark. Showed yellow cards to Athletic’s Berenguer (m.14), Raul Garcia (m.79), Iñigo Martinez (m.78) and coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, and to Real Madrid’s Nacho (m.79) and coach Zinedine Zidane (m.91).