Zidane vows Real Madrid are 'alive' in title race after Benzema strike jolts Atletico

By Sports Desk March 07, 2021

Zinedine Zidane declared Real Madrid "are alive" in a LaLiga title race that was given a stunning twist thanks to Karim Benzema's late equaliser against Atletico Madrid. 

Moments after Atletico threatened to go 2-0 ahead, Benzema drove the ball past Jan Oblak to earn a 1-1 draw that keeps Madrid clinging to hopes of a successful title defence. 

They are not as close as they would hope; five points off the pace having played one more game than Atletico means there is a mountain to climb. 

But that gap was almost eight points after Luis Suarez's early strike looked set to decide the derby, with Benzema's 88th-minute intervention a welcome reprieve for the visitors to the Wanda Metropolitano. 

"It is deserved, we had chances at the end. We could have scored more, but the good thing was we had a different second half and changed the game," Zidane told a post-game news conference. 

"It is a point, we are alive. We are going to keep fighting. It is a correct result, we believed until the end that it could be recovered."

Madrid thought they should have had a penalty late in the first half when a corner from Toni Kroos zipped across the six-yard box and struck Felipe on the arm, but referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez rejected the claims, even after viewing the incident on a touchline screen. 

Perhaps Zidane might have had a different view if Benzema had not equalised, but Madrid's head coach offered a phlegmatic post-game perspective. 

"His job is difficult. It is his decision, his responsibility. We have to respect that," Zidane said of the referee. "The players said it was a hand, he has reviewed it and decided not to whistle." 

Atletico are three points ahead of second-placed Barcelona but finished this game deflated, and their once-commanding lead has been whittled away in recent weeks. 

"We know there is a lot left," Zidane said. "Everything can always change, we are doing things well, we can improve. 

"I am very proud of all my players. We are in the same boat and we are going to fight to the end." 

Atletico have now gone 10 LaLiga derbies against Madrid without a win, drawing six of those games and losing four times. 

The result also means Real Madrid have not lost any of their four LaLiga games at Atletico's new home (W1 D3), and they remain the only team to have played in the stadium in the Spanish top flight without losing. 

Zidane also avoided a rare defeat to Diego Simeone, meaning the Atletico boss now has just one victory in nine matches (W1 D5 L3) against the Frenchman in LaLiga. That 11 per cent win record for Simeone is the Argentinian's worst against any manager he has faced at least four times in the competition. 

Ultimately, Real Madrid set out to bring home all three points, yet the one they left with felt almost like a win. 

Speaking to broadcaster Movistar, Zidane explained he was impressed by how greatly Madrid improved in the second half, after a shaky start to the game. 

"We had to be more aggressive, be higher, have more pressure. We had to be more alive on the pitch," he said. "You can get into a bad game, but then you have to change. 

"That's what we did in the second half, change at a general level, defensively and offensively. 

"They are a direct rival. We wanted all three points. The important thing is to turn the game around. Now we have to continue."

Related items

  • Rumour Has It: Atletico Madrid reject Man Utd's club-record £110m bid for Joao Felix Rumour Has It: Atletico Madrid reject Man Utd's club-record £110m bid for Joao Felix

    Manchester United are under pressure to make some signings amid their poor start to the new Premier League season.

    The Red Devils have lost their opening two league games under new boss Erik ten Hag.

    United have only brought in a few players this off-season and are in need for reinforcements.

     

    TOP STORY – MAN UTD DECLINED BY ATLETICO IN JOAO FELIX BID

    Atletico Madrid have rejected a bumper £110million (€130m) bid from Manchester United for Portuguese forward Joao Felix, claims AS.

    Atleti have reportedly inserted a staggering €350m (£295m) release clause in the 22-year-old's contract.

    United's reported bid is a club record, £25m more than the fee they paid Juventus for Paul Pogba in 2016.

    ROUND-UP

    United want to sign five more players this transfer window reports the Telegraph and have a shortlist of potential signings with Borussia Dortmund's Thomas Meunier, Chelsea winger Christian Pulisic, Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro, Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Barcelona's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Everton goalkeeper Asmir Begovic is also on their radar to provide a back-up to David de Gea.

    Paris Saint-Germain have not given up in a pursuit of Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva and are plotting a €71m (£59m) move for him, according to The Times.

    Napoli are closing in on a deal to sign Sassuolo's 22-year-old forward Giacomo Raspadori reports Calciomercato. It is claimed he will join Napoli by the end of the week.

    Nottingham Forest's busy window continues with the newly promoted Premier League club chasing Madrid right-back Alvaro Odriozola, according to AS.

    Brighton and Hove Albion want a permanent move for Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour, reports the Daily Mail. 

  • New York City slump to third consecutive loss, Criscito stunner rescues Toronto draw New York City slump to third consecutive loss, Criscito stunner rescues Toronto draw

    Reigning MLS Cup winners New York City continued their recent slump after suffering a third straight loss, going down 3-1 at home to playoff hopefuls Charlotte FC.

    Charlotte's win moves them up to 10th in the Eastern Conference, with the visitors scoring twice in the final quarter of an hour to claim victory.

    The defeat means City have only managed one point from their past four games and sit third in the east with 42 points from 25 games.

    Karol Swiderski had put Charlotte ahead in the fourth minute despite goalkeeper Sean Johnson's best efforts on the line, but City levelled before the half hour mark via Maxime Chanot's 30-yard strike into the top corner.

    City's Anton Tinnerholm struck the crossbar from range before Charlotte found an avenue to victory with Swiderski's clever back-heel for Brandt Bronico to restore their lead in the 77th minute.

    The visitors won an injury time penalty after video review which ex-Leicester City defender Christian Fuchs coolly converted to seal all three points.

    Domenico Criscito lashed in a spectacular 75th-minute equaliser to earn Toronto a 2-2 draw with New England Revolution.

    Filippo Bernadeschi had put Toronto ahead with a 31st-minute spotkick, but the Revs replied with goals either side of half-time from Tom McNamara and Justin Rennicks.

    But Criscito intervened when Toronto took a corner short to Michael Bradley who lobbed to the edge of the box towards the former Italy international, who rifled in a left-foot volley.

    Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union were beaten 1-0 by FC Dallas with US international Jesus Ferreira scoring the only goal in the 34th minute.

    Paul Arriolo broke down the right flank and passed centrally for Ferreira, who showed good skill to create space inside the box and fire a low strike past Union goalkeeper Andre Blake.

    New York Red Bulls reinforced their status as playoffs contenders with a 2-1 win at struggling Atlanta United while Vancouver Whitecaps defeated Colorado Rapids 2-1.

  • 'It's been too long without winning titles' - Lewandowski vows to end Barcelona's silverware drought 'It's been too long without winning titles' - Lewandowski vows to end Barcelona's silverware drought

    Robert Lewandowski has vowed great things are on the horizon for Barcelona, believing the Blaugrana have waited "too long" for silverware.

    The striker, who completed his €50million move from Bayern Munich last month, made his debut for the Catalan giants against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

    Although he failed to find the net in the goalless draw at Camp Nou, the Poland captain had a strike disallowed by VAR while he also hit the woodwork. 

    Barca are looking to regain the LaLiga title this season, having last donned the crown in 2018-19, while they finished 13 points behind eventual champions Real Madrid last term.

    Meanwhile, it is now 16 months since the Blaugrana's last taste of silverware; Lionel Messi's brace inspiring them to a 4-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the 2021 Copa del Rey final.

    But Lewandowski is convinced it is only a matter of time before the wait is over.

    "I think it's been too long for Barcelona without winning titles," he said via quotes reported in Marca. "I'm sure we're going to win them.

    "When I first knew that Barcelona were interested in bringing me to the club, at all times I thought it was the perfect time, for me and for the club.

    "I didn't want to play my whole life in one league. In the Bundesliga, everything went well, it was a good experience for me, but I knew it was another step for my career to go to LaLiga."

    Lewandowski will hope to open his Barca goalscoring account when Xavi's side travel to Real Sociedad on Sunday.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.