Benzema scores 2 as Madrid recovers to beat Eibar
MADRID (AP) — Karim Benzema saved Real Madrid from another embarrassing slip this season, scoring twice as his team recovered from a poor first half to beat Eibar 2-1 on Saturday.
Even so, Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane criticized the poor play of his team in the first half, when many fans at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium jeered their sloppy performance.
“We don’t like being jeered, but our supporters come to see their team play well,” Zidane said. “Our fans know that the season is over. The only thing left is to try and finish in second place (in the league).”
Benzema canceled out an opening goal by Eibar’s Marc Cardona before grabbing the winner in the 81st minute.
Benzema has been a rare bright spot for Madrid this campaign, which saw it eliminated from both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey and out of contention in the Spanish league with three months remaining. He has 26 goals in all competitions, including Madrid’s last four goals. He netted a late winner for a 3-2 victory over Huesca last weekend and scored in a 2-1 loss at Valencia on Wednesday.
Madrid was heading toward another defeat after a first half that Eibar dictated, helped by the hosts’ lax defending and passing.
“We can’t look for excuses, but this is not an easy situation,” said Zidane, who has coached the last four games since returning to help his former team in crisis.
“The first half was bad ... we lacked confidence and I saw my players were not trying to play. We are not going to win anything this season, so playing is complicated.”
After threatening with several dangerous crosses, Eibar went ahead five minutes before halftime after a slick buildup that involved four players.
Jose Angel Valdes exchanged passes with Marc Cucurella before finding Gonzalo Escalante in the area. Escalante then slid a pass through four Madrid defenders to the far post, where Cardona chipped it over sprawling goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Madrid’s fed-up fans jeered their team at several moments in the first half, but most of their frustration was directed at Gareth Bale, who earned whistles for a poor shot, a bad pass and for repeatedly being caught offside.
Eibar lost center back Ivan Ramis to an apparent leg injury, just before Benzema leveled in the 59th when he headed in a cross by Marco Asensio.
Madrid improved after the goal, and Benzema completed the turnaround when he outjumped his marker to head in a cross by substitute Toni Kroos.
Benzema had three chances to score a third goal, including one that hit the upright.
“The injury to Ivan (Ramis) changed the match,” said Eibar coach Jose Mendilibar. “They were able to attack more easily and knew how to take advantage of it.”
Madrid remained in third place, 13 points behind leader Barcelona, which beat second-placed Atletico Madrid 2-0.