Sports Desk, Mar 13 (efe-epa).- Karim Benzema scored both goals for Real Madrid as the reigning LaLiga champions edged Elche 2-1 on Saturday to remain in the 2020-2021 title race.
The victory lifted the Blancos to second place with 57 points, 5 fewer than leaders Atletico Madrid pending the Colchoneros’ match later Saturday.
With a look ahead to next week’s Champions League second leg with Atalanta, Zinedine Zidane ventured to leave Toni Kroos and Luka Modric on the bench at the start of the game against 17th-place Elche even as captain Sergio Ramos after losing two months to injury.
The hosts dominated possession, yet Elche goalkeeper Edgar Badia was called into action only once and dealt comfortably with an effort from Isco Alarcon in the 27th minute.
Real’s best chance of the opening period fell to Benzema, who fired wide from close range in the 36th.
At the other end, Thibaut Courtois tipped Ivan Marcone’s flick-on of a Tete Morente over the cross-bar before Elche’s Lucas Boye allowed a great opportunity to go begging.
Guido Carrillo forced an intervention from Courtois on the cusp of the hour mark and Dani Calvo put Elche ahead in the 61st minute, getting the better of defender Raphael Varane to tuck a header under the cross-bar off a Morente corner.
Zidane reacted by deploying Kroos and Modric and they did not disappoint, combining to set up Benzema’s equalizer in the 73rd minute.
Determined to come away with a point, Elche coach Fran Escriba went to five at the back in hopes of withstanding the Real Madrid onslaught, but while Badia denied Nacho, he couldn’t stop Benzema’s stoppage-time winner.
Elche are just a point above the drop zone. EFE rmm/dr