No BBC, no problem. Cristiano Ronaldo’s suspension meant only two of Real Madrid’s three famous forwards began at home to Real Sociedad on Saturday, but while Karim Benzema’s brilliance lit up the Santiago Bernabeu, Gareth Bale fluffed his lines in the absence of the three-time Ballon d’Or winner.
A return to 4-4-2 brought better balance as Isco and Asier Illarramendi both started, but Madrid were asleep as Real Sociedad netted from a corner after just 40 seconds. Carlo Ancelotti’s side had also conceded within a minute at home to Atletico in the Copa del Rey recently and were caught cold here again, their set-piece problems exposed once more.
David Moyes’ men posed a minimal threat after that, however, as Madrid dominated. Goals from James Rodriguez and Sergio Ramos turned the tables before Benzema’s brace, which included a stunning curler from a tight angle which is perhaps his finest goal since moving to the Spanish side from Lyon in 2009. Selfless as usual, the Frenchman is almost certainly the world’s best striker when it comes to linking up with his team-mates and he received his reward for another dynamic display on Saturday.
The same cannot be said for Bale. The Welsh winger intercepted a pass intended for James and shot woefully wide in the first half when it looked easier to score, and then sent an effort straight at goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli when clean through in the second period. There were tepid jeers from the Bernabeu crowd for the former Tottenham man, who should have done better on both occasions.
“Benzema played a fantastic match,” Ancelotti said after the game. “He has a fantastic shot and his goal was real quality. But we have to value everything he does for our play and to help the team.”
Bale did some of that too, setting up Benzema for the Frenchman’s first, but his two misses left fans frustrated on a bitterly cold afternoon in the capital.
“He did well,” Ancelotti said. “It’s true that he missed two goals, but he gave an assist to Benzema. He works for his team-mates.”
He does, but the 25-year-old still needs to improve his decision-making and cut out the selfish side when one of his team-mates is in a better position to score. Having upset both Benzema and Ronaldo recently by going alone when he could and possibly should have squared the ball, the Welshman is infuriating more than impressing at the moment – and he needs to get the fans back on his side.
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