Benzema reaches new heights for Real Madrid in key win

Karim Benzema scored twice from the penalty spot as Real Madrid beat Elche 4-0 in LaLiga on Wednesday.

Marco Asensio put Madrid ahead in the eighth minute at the Santiago Bernabeu, driving at the Elche defence before slotting past goalkeeper Edgar Badia.

The home side dominated the first half and Benzema doubled their lead with half an hour played after his header was handled inside the box by defender Enzo Roco, before converting another penalty on the stroke of halftime.

Luka Modric added a fourth off the bench after 80 minutes as Madrid secured the win, to close the gap on league leaders Barcelona to eight points.

JUMP TO: Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Postmatch quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid reaction

1. After Club World Cup, Real Madrid keep eyes on LaLiga

It’s been a good week for Real Madrid, adding another trophy to their collection by winning the Club World Cup, and now completing a routine 4-0 victory over Elche to ensure that the LaLiga title race isn’t quite over yet.

Both of those outcomes were expected — failing to win the Club World Cup against inferior opposition would have been a shock, while Elche are comfortably the worst team in LaLiga — but nonetheless it’s a boost for Madrid’s confidence, at a time when they badly needed it.

The situation at the top of the table remains far from ideal. Eight points is a significant lead for Barcelona. But there are 17 games and 51 points still up for grabs, and this Madrid team will fight to the very end to avoid the title race becoming a procession.

The next month might just decide their season, with a daunting fixture list starting with an away trip to Osasuna followed by visiting Anfield in the Champions League, hosting Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and then facing Barca in the Copa del Rey semifinals.

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2. Benzema adds to legend status in passing Raul

Benzema has been scoring at a decent rate recently — he found the net in Madrid’s 5-3 Club World Cup final win over Al Hilal in Morocco, in their Copa del Rey quarterfinal win over Atletico Madrid on Jan. 26, and the LaLiga game away at Athletic Club before that — but by a quirk of fate, he had only scored one league goal in front of the home fans at the Bernabeu this season.

He changed that here with two ruthless finishes from the penalty spot, giving Badia no chance. It’s now 230 league goals for Real Madrid, a brace taking Benzema past another club icon in the all-time ranking, Raul Gonzalez. Only one player scored more league goals for Madrid: a certain Cristiano Ronaldo with 311, arguably the greatest finisher of them all.

Benzema’s injury-hit season has led some to question whether the 35-year-old is capable of matching the career-best form last year which finally earned him the Ballon d’Or. But Benzema has been proving doubters wrong for years now, and there’s life in him yet.

3. Elche’s nightmare season continues

The worst team in LaLiga history was the Sporting Gijon side who amassed just 13 points over the course of the 1997-98 season, with a record of two wins, seven draws and 29 defeats. Bottom-of-the-table Elche’s challenge between now and May is to better that tally, because escaping relegation is surely beyond them.

Their record right now reads played 21, won one, drawn six and lost 14, for a miserly total of nine points. They’ve had five coaches this season — including temporary appointments — with Pablo Machin the latest man in charge, but the improvement has been marginal at best.

This was a poor performance, with just six chances created, no shots on target and an xG of 0.57. Only goalkeeper Badia emerged with any credit.

Best and worst performers

BEST: Karim Benzema, Real Madrid. Scored twice and looked to be thoroughly enjoying himself before being withdrawn with ten minutes left.

BEST: Rodrygo, Real Madrid. Outstanding on the left, filling in for the suspended Vinicius Junior.

BEST: Edgar Badia, Elche. Kept the scoreline respectable in the second half.

WORST: Enzo Roco, Elche. Gave away the first penalty with a careless raised hand.

WORST: Diego Gonzalez, Elche. Struggled to cope with Madrid’s in-form forward line and was eventually replaced.

WORST: Ezequiel Ponce, Eche. Offered nothing in attack, on a quiet night for Madrid’s defence.

Highlights and notable moments

All the kudos from the game deservedly went to Karim Benzema but Luka Modric’s fine goal also warrants a mention.

After the match: What the players/managers said

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, on the win: “It was a good game, we controlled it well. We scored early with Asensio and then we controlled it well, we got into the final third, we had a lot of chances, we avoided counterattacks, so it was a good game at an important moment of the season. We need continuity in our play, the game was good for us in this sense.”

Ancelotti, on Karim Benzema’s importance: “A bit of everything. Karim is a player who isn’t just a forward, he’s a complete player, he combines well with his teammates, players like Rodrygo tonight, he’s always ready in the penalty area and he helps us a lot in possession. Karim is having a fantastic career, let’s hope he can carry on, every Madrid fan wants him to be at this level.”

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

– Karim Benzema joins Lionel Messi as the only players to score 10 LaLiga goals in 12 different seasons. Messi did so in 15 different seasons with Barcelona.

– Marco Asensio has scored in his last five home LaLiga starts; that is tied with Karim Benzema (5 in 2021) for longest such streak for Real Madrid in the last 5 seasons. The last Real Madrid player with a longer such streak was Crisitano Ronaldo in 2018 (7).

– Real Madrid extends unbeaten streak vs Elche to 17 games, longest in series history (14-0-3 W-L-D); Elche’s last win over Real Madrid was in March 1978.

Up next

Real Madrid: A Saturday trip to Osasuna and then attention turns to the Feb. 21 bout against Liverpool at Anfield in Champions League round of 16 action. Then they welcome Atletico to the Bernabeu on Feb. 25.

Elche: Two more LaLiga matches to round out the Febuary fixture list, both at home. Hosting Espanyol on Sunday and then Real Betis on Feb. 24.

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