Zinedine Zidane admitted he is still baffled by Karim Benzema’s exclusion from the French national team after the striker starred again in Real Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Benzema continued his scintillating form at Balaidos by scoring twice to make it 10 goals in his last 10 games, before he set up Marco Asensio to add a third in injury-time.
Many in Zidane’s squad will now join up with their national teams on Monday but Benzema will remain in Madrid, with the 33-year-old still sidelined by France after his alleged role in a plot to blackmail Mathieu Valbuena in 2015.
“How can you understand it? I don’t understand it, you don’t understand it, there are many people who don’t understand it,” Zidane said after the game. “What he did today was spectacular.”
Zidane confirmed Sergio Ramos will join up with Spain, despite the defender missing the Celta win with a bruised tibia.
Madrid’s victory increases the pressure on Atletico ahead of their game in hand at home to Alaves on Sunday while Zidane’s team climb to second, at least until third-placed Barcelona play Real Sociedad, also on Sunday.
Benzema’s latest contribution came in the same week Zidane admitted a Madrid return could be “possible” for Cristiano Ronaldo this summer.
But speculation around Ronaldo makes light of Benzema’s superb showings in recent weeks, with his five goals in Madrid’s last three league games earning a crucial draw at Atletico, victory over Elche and now a win at Celta.
His hot streak appears to be Madrid’s best chance of catching Atleti, who are still three points clear but look increasingly vulnerable to the momentum of their nearest rivals.
“We’re entering the final stretch and we’re happy with how we’re playing and how we are physically,” said Zidane.
Kroos’ persistence pays off
Benzema had two early chances, the first after Vinicius Junior skipped around Celta goalkeeper Ivan Villar and the second when the ball spilled loose in the area, but both shots were blocked.
His two goals both owed a lot to Toni Kroos, who glided past three Celta shirts on the edge of the area in the 20th minute before feeding Benzema, who swivelled and shot crisply into the far corner.
Kroos’ incision set up the first and his persistence created the second 10 minutes later, as he robbed Renato Tapia and Benzema profited by curling in with his left foot.
Celta grew stronger towards the end of the half, Santi Mina flicking wide and then heading in after being left completely unmarked from a free-kick, conceded by Kroos.
Madrid lost some control in the second half and needed Thibaut Courtois to save an Iago Aspas header, even if Vinicius and Benzema might have extended the advantage on the counter-attack.
Aspas’ free-kick late on might have flown in had the ball not grazed Casemiro’s fringe on its way onto the post but Madrid breathed a sigh of relief and then celebrated, Asensio tapping in Benzema’s cross in injury-time.
Madrid, Spain | AFP | Saturday 3/21/2021 - 04:12 UTC+5 | 275 words
Sevilla’s goalkeeper Bono scored an incredible 94th-minute equaliser to rescue a 1-1 draw against Real Valladolid on Saturday.
Bono went up for a corner in injury-time and finished brilliantly with his left foot at the end of a mad scramble in the area to earn Sevilla a point.
The result damages Sevilla’s hopes of rejoining La Liga’s title race, with four points now separating them from third-placed Barcelona, who play a game in hand against Real Sociedad on Sunday.
But the team and staff were celebrating at the end, ecstatic at avoiding defeat in the most unlikely of fashions.
Bono is the first Sevilla goalkeeper to score a goal in La Liga but the second goalkeeper to score in the Spanish top flight this season, after Eibar’s Marko Dmitrovic successfully took a penalty against Atletico Madrid in January.
“It was the last play of the game and it gives us a taste of happiness,” Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui said. “A goal from a goalkeeper is nothing normal.”
Bono was in the right place at the right time after Luuk de Jong’s header was kept alive by Oscar Rodriguez, only for his cross to hit the outside of the post.
But the ball was cut back again by Youssef En-Nesyri and while Jules Kounde was unable to shoot, he poked it into the path of Bono, who struck hard with his left foot through the crowd of players and into the net.
The Moroccan swung his shirt around his head, for which he was shown a yellow card, and ran towards the Sevilla bench, where he was mobbed by teammates and staff.
Valladolid had earlier taken the lead just before half-time, Fabian Orellana scoring a penalty for the hosts, who stay 16th in the table.
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