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Benzema back but Real Madrid’s perfect season ends in draw



MADRID — Real Madrid’s perfect LaLiga season came to an end with a 1-1 draw against visitors Osasuna in a match that saw Karim Benzema miss a late penalty.

Benzema returned to action in nearly a month after being sidelined with a thigh injury, but the French striker couldn’t convert from the spot in the 79th minute as Madrid’s six-game LaLiga winning streak to open the season was snapped.

Vinicius Junior gave Madrid the lead just before halftime, but Kike Garcia equalised it with a brilliant header from the edge of the area over backup keeper Andriy Lunin, who was playing in place of late scratch Thibaut Courtois.

With 19 points, Madrid are level with Barcelona at the top of the LaLiga standings, with El Clasico looming on Oct. 16.

JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Post-match quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures


Rapid Reaction

1. Madrid’s first blemish not the worst

Real Madrid had been near impeccable so far this season, with a record going into this match that read nine games played between LaLiga, the Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup, and nine wins. A 1-1 draw at home against an awkward opponent in Osasuna is no disaster, but it’s an unwelcome slip-up nonetheless, and an early reminder that the reigning Spanish and European champions are not infallible.

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There are plenty of contributing factors to explain why Madrid weren’t quite firing on all cylinders here. Their best player, Karim Benzema, is only just back from injury, while Thibaut Courtois was absent (more on both in a moment) as was Luka Modric. There’s also often a sluggishness to the team post-international break, with so many members of the squad having been away with their countries.

The result leaves Madrid level on 19 points with a resurgent Barcelona at the top of the table and sets up a potentially thrilling two-team title race, with both sides having the chance to strike an early blow in El Clasico here at the Santiago Bernabeu on Oct. 16. By then, expect to see Madrid back up to full speed.

2. Look for Benzema to shake it off

Real Madrid hadn’t exactly struggled to find the net in Benzema’s absence. Since the Ballon d’Or elect picked up a thigh injury against Celtic on Sept. 6, the team had scored 11 goals in four games: three against Celtic, four against Mallorca, and two each against RB Leipzig and Atletico Madrid. Still, though, Benzema is “The Boss” — as he was described on the front page of Diario AS on Sunday morning — so it was no surprise to find him back leading the line against Osasuna.

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Benzema almost celebrated his return with an outrageous near miss on 37 minutes, taking Vinicius Junior’s cross first time on the volley and putting it inches wide. The second half brought an even better chance to do so when Madrid were awarded a penalty for David Garcia’s push on Benzema himself. He shot high, off the bar and over, though, in a rare failure to convert from the spot.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti has insisted we’ll see “the same Karim as always” soon enough. With winnable games against Shakhtar Donetsk and Getafe coming up this week, Madrid will be hoping Benzema is back to his best by the time they face Barca.

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3. Courtois is irreplaceable

It can’t be easy being backup goalkeeper to the best in the business. Thibaut Courtois was nearly ever-present last season — starting 36 of 38 league games on the way to Madrid’s title win, and playing every match of Madrid’s historic Champions League run — so Andriy Lunin had to be patient, work hard in training and bide his time.

A rare opportunity presented itself here, with Courtois ruled out late on the day of the game with a back problem. Lunin has often looked nervous and uncertain on his rare appearances for Madrid, as if over-keen to make a positive impression. Here, his first save came in the 28th minute, a straightforward stop from an optimistic long-range shot from Jon Moncayola. There was little Lunin could do about Kike Garcia’s superb headed equaliser, which looped up and over his head, and there was a nervous moment later when the keeper hesitated to come for a cross and was almost caught in no-man’s land.

It might be unfair to pass a definitive judgment on Lunin’s ability, given how little we’ve seen of him in a Real Madrid shirt, but Courtois can’t return soon enough.


Player ratings

Real Madrid: Andriy Lunin 5; Dani Carvajal 6, Antonio Rudiger 6, David Alaba 7, Ferland Mendy 6; Aurelien Tchouameni 6, Toni Kroos 7, Dani Ceballos 5; Rodrygo Goes 6, Vinicius Junior 8, Karim Benzema 7.

Subs: Eduardo Camavinga 7, Fede Valverde 6, Marco Asensio 5, Eder Militao 6, Mariano Diaz 5.

Osasuna: Sergio Herrera 5; Nacho Vidal 7, Unai Garcia 7, David Garcia 5, Juan Cruz 6; Lucas Torro 7, Darko Brasanac 6, Jon Moncayola 7; Abde Ezzalzouli 7, Moi Gomez 6; Kike Garcia 7.

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Subs: Ruben Pena 6, Aimar Oroz 6, Manu Sanchez 6, Budimir 6, Aridane Hernandez 6.


Best and worst performers

BEST: Vinicius Junior, Real Madrid.

His goal was a huge slice of luck, a cross that found its way through into the bottom corner, but Vinicius never stopped trying to make things happen as Madrid pushed for a winner.

WORST: David Garcia, Osasuna.

Gave away the penalty that should have seen Real Madrid take the win with his shove on Benzema and was sent off to leave his team closing out the match under pressure with 10 men.


Highlights and notable moments

Not the way the presumptive Ballon d’Or winner envisioned his return to the pitch after his injury layoff.

After the match: What the players and managers said

Real Madrid’s Dani Ceballos: “We wanted the three points, we tried until the end. We’ve dropped two points, really, because the team was pushing in the last few minutes but we couldn’t get the win.”

Osasuna’s Kike Garcia: “You watch the comebacks they’ve had on television and you think ‘now it’s your turn!’ But we held on, I think we have a good team that defends the box well and we showed that.”


Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

– Surprising that Karim Benzema has been shaky on penalties in LaLiga games of late. Since the start of last season, he has now failed to convert five penalties (scored 8/13). And three of those misses? Against Osasuna.

– Osasuna have avoided defeat in consecutive road matches vs. Real Madrid for the first time since back-to-back draws in 1994 and 2001.


Up next

Real Madrid: Carlo Ancelotti’s side will host Shakhtar Donetsk in Champions League action on Tuesday and welcome Getafe on Saturday.

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Osasuna: The Basque side host Valencia on Friday in LaLiga action.





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