Real Madrid gain valuable three points against Athletic Club at San Mames
July 5, 2020.
Real Madrid traveled to San Mames and extended their lead to seven points with a 0-1 victory against Athletic Club.
Starting XI: Thibaut Courtois, Dani Carvajal, Eder Militao, Sergio Ramos (C), Marcelo, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Fede Valverde, Marco Asensio, Rodrygo, Karim Benzema.
Real Madrid started the game in a traditional 4-3-3. Zinedine Zidane gave Marco Asensio his first start since returning from injury. Eder Militao started in the backline in place of the injured Raphael Varane. Rodrygo played in the right-wing while Fede Valverde started to give Toni Kroos some rest.
Real Madrid got awarded a freekick in the third minute after Karim Benzema got fouled right outside the box. Marco Asensio steps up to take the freekick, and his effort is slapped out by Unai Simon. Dani Carvajal pounces on the rebound and pulls it back for Benzema, but the Frenchman is unable to make clean contact with his header.
A few minutes later, Inaki Williams found himself through on goal after Sergio Ramos misread a cross. The Basque striker shot at goal, but Thibaut Courtois does well to get down and make a great save with his leg.
Unai Lopez distributes a perfect ball over the top as Raul Garcia towers over Carvajal to head the ball towards goal. Courtois does well punch the ball away from danger. Inaki found some space to make a run at goal, but Militao does an excellent job stealing the ball from the Bilbao forward.
On the other end, Asensio whipped a ball into the box for Rodrygo. The Brazillian meets the ball with a header at the back post, but his effort is off-target.
A minute later, Inaki's attempt at goal from the right soars towards the stands as Casemiro closes him down.
Inaki Williams was once again amid the chances with a one on one against Courtois. His attempted chip lands just over the bar.
In the 40th minute, Militao makes another fantastic defensive play in a one-vs-one situation with Inaki and wins a foul.
Just before the half, Asensio made a brilliant run before sending in a lovely cross towards the six-yard box where Benzema goes for the header. The Frenchman is unable to find enough elevation to direct the effort at goal.
Halftime (Athletic Bilbao 0 - 0 Real Madrid)
Luka Modric takes a strike from a distance, but the effort is straight to Simon. Real Madrid looked better in the second half. Zidane's team talk worked as Marcelo and Ramos improved their positional play and looked more organized.
Raul Garcia delivers a delicious ball towards Inaki from the right. However, Courtois comes out and makes an intelligent interception and collects the ball.
Los Blancos had a series of dangerous attacking sequences, but none of them led to a shot at goal. A few minutes later, the referee awarded a penalty to the Merengues after a VAR review adjudged Marcelo got brought down inside the box. Ramos stepped up and slotted it home past Simon to give the Royal Whites the lead.
Zidane made his first substitutions of the game in the 77th minute by replacing Asensio and Rodrygo with Vinicius Jr. and Lucas Vasquez.
Toni Kroos also came in to replace Valverde with five minutes remaining. A lovely sequence between Kroos and Benzema set the Frenchman through on goal. He took the shot with his left foot, but Simon made a great save to deny Real Madrid's No.9.
Final Score (Athletic Bilbao 0 - 1 Real Madrid)
Real Madrid looked exhausted and leg heavy in the first half. Athletic Club was able to go toe to toe with the Merengues and created some danger in the first 45 minutes.
However, Los Blancos came out in the second half with better organization and improved positioning. Bilbao struggled to create much of a threat after the break while the Royal Whites had a flurry of attacking sequences that ultimately led to the winning penalty.
Zidane's men saw out the game with composure to set them with seven wins out of seven since the return of La Liga.
Three Stars of the Match
Eder Militao: Militao took his opportunity against Bilbao and proved to be the difference-maker in the backline. He was solid defensively and made pivotal interventions to thwart the Basque team's attacks.
Casemiro: Casemiro is in an irreplaceable player for Los Blancos this season, and it is because he continues to have monster performances as he did against Bilbao. He had a game-high five interceptions, three successful tackles, won three aerial duels, and had two clearances.
Marco Asensio: Asensio made his first start since returning from injury and looked like he never missed a beat. He was Real Madrid's most dangerous attacking threat until he left the field on the 77th minute. He put in some excellent crosses for the likes of Benzema and Rodrygo, but neither of them was clinical with the goal-scoring chances. He had two key passes that combined to total an expected assist (xA) of 1.15.