Benzema saves the day as Ronaldo record has to wait
It was supposed to be all about Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward looked set to become the all-time top goalscorer for Real Madrid, needing three goals against Granada to surpass Raul’s record on Saturday.
But he couldn’t do it. Instead, it took a Karim Benzema header to save the day for Los Blancos.
Ronaldo scored five in this fixture last season – a 9-1 win at the Bernabeu. Granada are a much better side now than they were back then, though, and the Andalusians caused their hosts plenty of problems in a first half which saw them unfortunate to see a good goal incorrectly ruled out for offside.
Madrid kept looking to Ronaldo, but this was a poor performance from the home team. Lacking the leadership and distribution of Sergio Ramos in defence, without Gareth Bale’s pace and the creativity of James Rodriguez (all are currently injured), Real toiled in the afternoon heat.
Ronaldo saw a couple of penalty appeals turned down, disappointed with two tame free-kicks and was mostly off target with his shooting, coming close once in the second half from distance when he forced Granada goalkeeper Andres Fernandez into a fine save.
There were whistles as Madrid went in on level terms, the biggest cheers saved for Keylor Navas as the Costa Rican made a number of important interventions. “Keylor, Keylor, Navas!” sang supporters to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”.
The 28-year-old was on the verge of leaving the club on transfer deadline day but has impressed in Madrid’s season start with five consecutive clean sheets.
But at the other end, Madrid needed to score and in the end the goal arrived through a moment of inspiration from Isco and Benzema, the former Malaga man curling in an exquisite cross for the Frenchman to head home at the far post.
Wanted by Arsenal in the summer window, Benzema is back on form for Real after recovering from injury and showed exactly why Madrid had no intention of letting him leave. The Gunners, meanwhile, lost at Chelsea earlier on Saturday with Theo Walcott looking lost in the role of central striker.
That goal proved enough, but there were more jeers at full-time as Madrid prevailed by a single strike when they had been expected to triumph with relative ease.
Ronaldo had the ball at his feet in an attacking position when the referee blew the final whistle and he blasted a shot in frustration over the crossbar before staring at the ground. Having scored eight goals in his last two games to move to within two of Raul’s record 323 Madrid goals, he was unable to add to that in this match and appeared anything but happy with himself.
“We had chances, we didn’t concede and we won the three points,” Benitez said afterwards. “But we were lacking the fluidity of previous games.”
The Madrid boss was also asked about Ronaldo’s free-kicks and the fact that the Portuguese has netted only two in his last 77 attempts.
“We practise them in training and he scores a lot,” Benitez said. “James and Bale take good free-kicks but they weren’t available today anyway. We will keep placing our trust in Cristiano and we know he will score goals – we have great confidence in him.”
Goals for Ronaldo come in many different forms, of course, and it is only a matter of time before he breaks Raul’s record.
Against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on Wednesday, he will have another chance.