Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Real Madrid
Athletic Bilbao: Kepa; De Marcos, Laporte, Yeray, Balenziaga; Iturraspe, Beñat; Williams, García, Lekue; Aduriz. (4-2-3-1)
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Nacho, Ramos, Marcelo; Modrić, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo. (4-3-3)
The games between Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid have always been must-watch TV. These games have so much tradition and history. Athletic Bilbao are currently fighting to get to Europe, while Real Madrid are, of course, fighting for La Liga title.
Athletic Bilbao displayed their high-pressure intensity for the first 20 minutes of the game. The triangle conformed by Ander Iturraspe, Raúl García and Beñat Etxebarria did a great job at disconnecting the passing-lanes between the Real Madrid center defenders and the midfield line. Meanwhile, Iñaki Williams and Iñigo Lekue have freedom when moving through the wings.
But after those first 20 minutes, Real Madrid found the key to beat that high-pressuring, advanced line. Toni Kroos was the key. Kroos used his incredible playmaking vision to create passing lanes for the forwards and make quick decisions on the offensive transitions. Other player who helped Kroos to create chances was Karim Benzema. Benzema is a player who does not need to score a lot of goals to have an impact on the game. He is playing as a false “9” more than ever. He dropped to the midfield line, at times, to provide a better control of the ball and drag Aymeric Laporte and Yeray Álvarez to him. This also allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to have more space up-front.
The first goal of the game came in the 25th minute after Casemiro sent a well-measured long pass to Ronaldo. Óscar de Marcos was in a bad position, so he could not catch Ronaldo on the run. Ronaldo drove the ball through the left wing once he received it. He sent the pass to Benzema, who left his marker behind and scored easily.
Even though Athletic Bilbao continued with their high-pressure in the second half, Real Madrid adapted to their rivals’ game plan very well. Real Madrid displayed a 4-3-3 scheme on offense and a 4-4-2 scheme on defense. Gareth Bale was crucial in this tactical movement. Bale had a strong influence on defense when dropping to the midfield and blocking every rival build-up through his wing.
Aritz Aduriz, who looked lost throughout the entire first half thanks to the good marking by Sergio Ramos, scored a header after being assisted from the left wing. But Real Madrid responded quickly three minutes later. Casemiro, who was having a fantastic all-around game, scored the final goal of the game after receiving the ball from a corner.
Both teams displayed an amazing showcase for the fans. Real Madrid gained momentum in the battle for the title while beating Athletic Bilbao at San Mamés. Something that has been difficult to do this season. This was Athletic Bilbao’s second home lost this season in La Liga. The first one was against FC Barcelona.