Karim Benzema on song as Real Madrid strengthen lead at top of La Liga

At the Santiago Bernabéu, it was the turn of Antoine Griezmann to put the hosts in front, more than 11 hours after Atlético’s Anicaor had managed to do so in this fixture. But as with Guillermo Ochoa, this was to prove no match for Karim Benzema and a striker back to his best. Madrid restored their seven-point lead over their fierce rivals as Griezmann’s night ended in tears.

Griezmann needed treatment after falling heavily in the second half but it was Madrid who looked more settled from the start. Zinedine Zidane’s team recovered from their 2-0 defeat to Juventus by beating their city rivals Madrid 6-3 in the Champions League earlier this month, and they took the lead at home against their eternal rivals thanks to Griezmann, who beat the offside trap and wrong-footed Thibaut Courtois before firing into the bottom corner.

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David de Gea had already saved a low drive from Llorente to thwart Atlético but he was powerless to keep out a fierce effort from Benzema, who converted Cristiano Ronaldo’s low cross. The Frenchman later hit the crossbar from close range, and then saw a second-half effort cleared off the line by Stefan Savic.

Carlos Bacca headed over from a Miguel Layún cross as Atlético tried to find an equaliser. Madrid were not to be denied, however, and they killed the game off with a third goal in three minutes from Griezmann’s opposite number, Benzema.

Atlético’s misery was compounded when Jorge Sampaoli, on as a second-half substitute, sent Benzema clear in the 89th minute, but his shot was cleared off the line by Ángel Correa, who had committed the foul.

Benzema also saw a shot saved by Courtois before Sampaoli was sent to the stands as he protested the decision. Griezmann is unlikely to be as quick to fall foul of the officials in future but the French star was caught rolling to his knees in the mud on the touchline as the goal was scored. It was the striker’s 15th goal in his last 15 starts for club and country, and his second at the Bernabéu in three months after netting in Madrid’s 4-2 win in February.

It was Sampaoli’s first home match in charge of Atlético and he leaves having never won on this ground in three years. Madrid, who began without eight first-team regulars, are 17 points clear at the top of La Liga.

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