Real Madrid top Eibar to keep title defense alive

Madrid, Apr 3 (efe-epa).- Reigning LaLiga champions Real Madrid beat second-from-bottom Eibar 2-0 on Saturday to stay in touch with current leaders Atletico Madrid.

A third straight league win boosted the Blancos to 63 points, 3 behind Atletico and 1 better than third-place Barcelona, though both the Colchoneros and the Blaugrana have a game in hand.

Zinedine Zidane’s men are unbeaten in their last 11 as they head into crunch time: an eight-day stretch when they will face Liverpool twice in the Champions League on either side of next Saturday’s Clasico with Barça.

With that in mind, the Real Madrid coach’s strategy was to dispatch Eibar as quickly as possible so he could give his key starters some minutes of rest.

Karim Benzema forced a save from Eibar goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic in the 3rd minute before appearing to score two minutes later only to see the goal disallowed for offside.

Marco Asensio beat Dmitrovic with a free kick in the 21st minute, but the ball bounced off the cross-bar. Alex Pozo fired wide 10 minutes later on Eibar’s only solid chance of the first half.

Asensio’s flick-on of Isco’s strike went through Dmitrovic’s legs in the 36th minute. A VAR review concluded that the scorer was offside and the goal was taken down.

Not to be denied, Asensio came charging into the box in the 41st minute. When his defenders failed to react, the Eibar keeper rushed out to cut down the angle and the Real Madrid striker chipped the ball over him to make it 1-0.

Dmitrovic managed to tip an Asensio effort over the cross-bar seven minutes into the second half.

At the other end of the pitch, Thibaut Courtois had to be sharp to avert an own goal for the Blancos when the wind got hold of a loose ball just past the hour mark.

Casemiro looked to have put the match to bed when he scored in the 71st minute. Yet again, the goal was disallowed for an offside in the buildup.

Seconds later, however, Benzema headed the ball into the net and it counted. It was the Frenchman’s seventh goal in his last five games. EFE omb/dr

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