Real Madrid widen LaLiga lead; Atletico’s slump continues

Sports Desk, Dec 22 (EFE).- Read Madrid beat Athletic in Bilbao on Wednesday to go 8 points clear atop LaLiga and 17 points ahead of defending champions Atletico Madrid, losers earlier in the day to Granada.

The Blancos improved to 46 points from 19 matches. Atleti, despite a fourth straight defeat in the league, are fifth with 29 points and remain in the fight for the Champions League places.

Just weeks after nipping Athletic 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu, the visitors stormed out to a 2-0 advantage after seven minutes on a brace by Karim Benzema, who leads LaLiga in scoring with 15 goals.

But Oihan Sancet halved the deficit for the hosts in the 10th minute, getting the better of Thibaut Courtois with a great strike from the edge of the box.

Benzema was poised to complete the hat trick in the 23rd minute when Oscar de Marcos cut off Eden Hazard’s pass to the French striker.

Real Madrid dominated the first 15 minutes after the break and Toni Kroos fired high on a chance to make it 3-1 before Athletic sub Iñaki Williams put the ball in the side-netting at the hour mark.

Goalkeeper Julen Agirrezabala denied Eden Hazard in the 81st minute, five minutes before Nico Williams forced a stop from Courtois.

Agirrezabala shined again in stoppage time, saving shots by Peter and Kroos in quick succession, but Athletic ran out of time to get the equalizer.

Joao Felix, back in the starting 11 after missing weeks to an injury, put Atleti ahead in the 2nd minute of the contest in Granada with a tremendous display of individual skill.

The home side drew level in the 17th courtesy of a perfectly placed strike by Darwin Machis.

Felix sent the ball into the stands in the 40th minute, but found the back of the net with a header in the 44th, only for the goal to be disallowed for an ostensible foul by the attacking player.

The second half would bring the Colchoneros reason to be unhappy about the officiating, as Jorge Molina’s go-ahead goal in the 61st was restored by VAR after an initial offside call.

Granada held on to extend their unbeaten streak to five matches.



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