Real Madrid extended their lead at the top of La Liga after a hard-fought 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao at San Mames thanks to goals from Karim Benzema and Casemiro.
The hosts began the brightest but were given a warning after just 10 minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo smashed the ball home from close range only to be denied by the offside flag.
Benzema makes the breakthrough
Benzema was looking bright for Madrid and it was little surprise that he was the man to make the breakthrough after 25 minutes.
Ronaldo was the creator, getting free down the left before sliding in a delicious ball for Benzema to slot past Kepa for the opening goal.
Tempers flared shortly afterwards with Sergio Ramos and Raul Garcia squaring up after a late challenge on Nacho and leaving the referee to brandish yellow cards to Aritz Aduriz and Dani Carvajal.
Casemiro followed the pair into the book just moments later with a yellow card that will rule him out of Madrid’s next clash against Alaves.
Athletic came flying out of the blocks after the break, Aduriz heading goalwards and causing confusion in the Madrid defence with Keylor Navas and Sergio Ramos getting in each others’ way before the ball was eventually hacked clear.
The hosts continued to press, Iker Muniain arriving on the hour mark and Inaki Williams testing Navas shortly afterwards but the Costa Rica international made a superb save.
Minutes later however, he was beaten, the ball looped in from the left by Williams and headed back by Raul Garcia to Aduriz who made no mistake, powering home from close range.
Madrid hit straight back
It promised to be a huge goal in the title race but just three minutes later Madrid were back in front. A corner by Toni Kroos was flicked on by Ronaldo at the near post and found Casemiro in acres of space to fire home from a matter of yards.
Madrid then almost put the game out of reach after great work between Marcelo and Benzema only for the Brazilian to blast high over the bar.
Athletic continued to press late on but Madrid held firm to move five points clear at the top of the table, with Barcelona not in action until Sunday when they take on Valencia at Camp Nou.
Madrid therefore head into the international break in good heart and while the Champions League draw may not have been kind, their next two Liga fixtures are against Alaves and Leganes before the season hots up with a visit from neighbours Atletico.
Athletic Bilbao: Kepa 7; De Marcos 6, Yeray 6, Laporte 7, Balenziaga 6; Benat 6 (Mikel Rico 6), Iturraspe 6; Inaki Williams 7, Raul Garcia 7 (Susaeta 6), Lekue 6 (Muniain 6); Aduriz 7.
Unused subs: Iraizoz, Boveda, Elustondo, Saborit.
Real Madrid: Navas 7; Dani Carvajal 6, Nacho 6, Sergio Ramos 6, Marcelo 6; Modric 7 (Lucas Vazquez 6) , Casemiro 8, Kroos 7; Bale 5, Benzema 8 (Morata 6), Ronaldo 7 (Isco 6).
Unused subs: James, Casilla, Kovacic, Danilo.
Referee: Santiago Jaime Latre
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