Real Madrid reliant upon Ronaldo again but Madrid midfield a mess without Casemiro

The Portuguese scored a late leveller to continue his remarkable recent run in front of goal, but Los Blancos were cut open too easily on Wednesday

Cristiano Ronaldo did it again. Just when it looked like Real Madrid might slip to a second straight loss at the Santiago Bernabeu, the 33-year-old stuck out his heel to divert a long-range Luka Modric effort past Kepa Arrizabalaga and earn a 1-1 draw against Athletic Club.

With that, the Portuguese continued his remarkable recent run in front of goal. He has now netted in each of his last 12 matches in all competitions, with 22 strikes for Los Blancos in that time, and 25 in his last 15.

Ronaldo was rested for the 2-1 win over Malaga on Sunday, having hit the penalty last Wednesday which saw Real prevail against Juventus after they had thrown away a three-goal lead from the first leg.

The 3-1 defeat to Juve meant Madrid had failed to win 11 of their games at the Bernabeu prior to this one and that became 12 as Athletic followed on from Valencia, Levante, Betis, Villarreal, Tottenham, Barcelona, Numancia, Fuenlabrada, Leganes, Atletico and the Italians in frustrating Los Blancos at their famous home this term.

A cute chip from Inaki Williams gave the Basques an early lead and, after that, it was a case of holding on, although the visitors also hit the crossbar in the second half in a glorious double chance that went begging.

This was Madrid’s final fixture before next Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena and if this was a warm up for that, it was not a very convincing one.

There is no weekend fixture for Real because Zinedine Zidane’s side had been due to face Sevilla but the Andalusians are in action against Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey on Saturday.

Zidane picked an interesting line-up, with Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez on the wings, Modric and Toni Kroos in central midfield. At this level, however, that pairing is too vulnerable defensively and Casemiro was badly missed.

 

Although Real had most of the play and Kepa made some super saves, Athletic easily exploited the holes in the middle and Casemiro – who showed what he can do by stealing possession to start and then finish the move for his side’s second goal at Malaga on Sunday – will surely start in Germany.

NAIJAXTREME, MD, USA

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