Bilbao: Karim Benzema scored two goals off of Athletic Bilbao's mistakes to lead Real Madrid to a 2-1 win in La Liga action here late Wednesday, a victory that sent the Blancos to the top of the standings.
Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema (R) celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match Athletic Club vs Real Madrid CF at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao. Pic/AFP
The first goal came in the 19th minute when midfielder Mikel San Jose committed a major blunder by booting the ball back to goal keeper Gorka Iraizoz without gauging the presence of the French striker, who beat the Athletic net minder to the ball and knocked it home.
The home side, however, sent the crowd at San Mames into a frenzy 22 minutes into the second half when Aymeric Laporte carved his way through the visitors' defence and delivered a pass on the right side to Markel Susaeta, who proceeded to loft a cross-field pass that perfectly led Sabin Merino for a net-finding header past Costa Rican goalkeeping wizard Keylor Navas.
The score was the first this year against Real Madrid in La Liga play.
Three minutes later, however, those cheers turned to groans when the Leones' defenders allowed Spanish midfielder Isco to roam unmarked on the right side and fire a perfect cross that either Benzema or Portuguese super-striker Cristiano Ronaldo could have knocked into the back of the net.
Benzema ended up doing the honours, and Real Madrid then held on for the victory thanks to some stellar goalkeeping by Navas down the stretch.
With the Blancos' win and Celta Vigo's stunning 4-1 upset Wednesday of FC Barcelona at Balaidos stadium, Real Madrid moved into first place in La Liga with 13 points through five matches, ahead of Celta and Villarreal based on goal differential.
Barca and Atletico Madrid trail the leaders by one point.