BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Karim Benzema scored one goal and set up another to lead Real Madrid to a 3-1 win at Eibar on Sunday, keeping the defending champions level on points with Atlético Madrid at the top of the Spanish league.
Zinedine Zidane’s side is behind leader Atlético on goal difference. Atlético has played two fewer games than Madrid. The city rivals are three points ahead of Real Sociedad and eight points ahead of Barcelona, which is in fifth place behind Villarreal.
Benzema opened the scoring in the sixth minute when he controlled an expert pass from Rodrygo before knocking the ball past goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic.
The French striker assisted Luka Modric in the 12th after he dribbled around a defender and found the Croatia midfielder arriving unmarked at the edge of the area. Modric fired a right-footed strike into the upper part of the net.
Eibar stayed true to coach José Mendilibar’s playing style of pressuring high up the field, and what looked like a possible Madrid rout became an entertaining contest.
Kike García got Eibar back in the game in the 28th when the striker scored a brilliant strike from outside the area, curling a long shot beyond the reach of Thibaut Courtois and inside the far post.
Both attacks continued to create scoring chances but the defenses kept the score from moving until stoppage time.
Moments after Sergio Ramos blocked a chance by Eibar’s Pedro Vigas, an attack at the other end saw Lucas Vázquez beat Dmitrovic to seal Madrid’s fourth win in a row.
“Our first 20 minutes were spectacular, we got the ball out well from the back, we moved well, and when these players are playing like this, it looks easy,” Zidane said. “But it is normal that we had our difficulties. This is a tough place to play and against a rival that never lets up in its pressure.”
Eibar remained winless at home in eight matches at Ipurúa Stadium. But as shown by its feisty performance against Madrid, 14th-place Eibar has proven very tough to beat in recent weeks. It entered the match unbeaten in six games, a run in which it conceded only two goals.
For Kike, Eibar is just not the same team at home without its supporters. Spain has not allowed fans into matches since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country in March.
“We don’t have our people with us. They are our fuel,” García said after his impressive goal failed to end his team’s perplexingly bad record at home.
“Last year we were strong at home and had difficulties on the road, now we are missing our fans very much. We hope that this is over soon and things get back to normal.”
Roberto Soldado scored two early goals in Granada’s 2-0 win over Real Betis.
The veteran striker converted a penalty earned by Luis Suárez in the 14th before adding a second goal in the 20th.
Granada rose to sixth, level with Barcelona on points. The Andalusian club visits Madrid on Wednesday.
“We will try to win our next game at Real Madrid,” Soldado said. “We will go for it with everything we’ve got, believing that our hard work and our playing style can let us take the three points.”
CELTA ON THE RISE
Brais Méndez netted twice to ensure Celta Vigo maintained its convincing turnaround since Argentine Eduardo Coudet took over the team last month. Its 2-0 win over Alavés was its fourth in a row and lifted it into eighth place.
Getafe beat Cádiz 2-0 on the road to end a seven-round winless streak.
Juan “Cucho” Hernández dipped a long strike just under the bar to open for Getafe. Nemanja Maksimovic added a second goal late.
SECOND TIER, FIRST CLASS
Raúl de Tomás scored an eye-popping goal to help Espanyol take the lead of Spain’s second tier.
The striker flipped the ball over the head of a defender before unleashing a strike from near the middle of the field that went over the Almeria goalkeeper.
De Tomás also converted a penalty in the 2-1 win.
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