Real Madrid shred Atletico's title defence with 2-0 derby win

AP , Monday 13 Dec 2021

Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio inflicted the latest blow on Atletico Madrid's title defence after leading Real Madrid to a 2-0 win Sunday to keep their team comfortably at the top of the Spanish league.

 Karim Benzema
Real Madrid s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on December 12, 2021 (AFP)

Vinicius Junior again proved to be the difference for Madrid, setting up Benzema and Asensio for goals in each half of the Spanish capital derby.

Diego Simeone's Atletico entered the Santiago Bernabeu needing a win to rekindle its hopes of getting back in the title race, seven months after it beat out Madrid and Barcelona in a thrilling finish to the 2020-21 season.

But the commanding win by Carlo Ancelotti's side opened a 13-point gap for Madrid over fourth-place Atletico. There is still more than half the season left, but the chances of Simeone's team repeating as champion are fading fast.

The leading threats to Madrid are now the pair of rivals from Seville. Sevilla is second at eight points back, followed by Real Betis nine points adrift of Madrid.

Barcelona, the team that traditionally shares the majority of La Liga titles with Madrid, suffered another setback in its post-Messi era. A 2-2 draw at Osasuna left it in eighth place, some 18 points behind Madrid. Barcelona has long known that a fourth-place finish to secure a berth in the Champions League is its realistic goal this season.

Benzema put Madrid on its way to a 10th straight victory overall in the 16th minute after Luka Modric intercepted a ball to start a counterattack.

Vinicius set up Benzema by stretching Atletico's defence with a run down the right before finding his unmarked striker with a cross. Benzema did the rest with a superb sweep of his right leg to drive the ball past Jan Oblak and into the corner of the net for his league-leading 13th goal.

Vinicius, the league's breakout player, forced Oblak to make a one-handed save to parry a chip shot shortly after Antoine Griezmann generated Atletico's only shot on target of the first half. Griezmann's curving free kick in the 35th was saved by Thibaut Courtois.

Benzema, who was doubtful after missing Madrid's last match due to a leg injury, was substituted by Luka Jovic at halftime.

Atletico improved after Simeone sent on Joao Felix and Thomas Lemar for Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco for the second half. But another counterattack driven by Vinicius settled the contest when the Brazilian found Asensio all alone to rifle the ball just inside the post in the 57th.

Luis Suarez, also doubtful due to injury, played the final half hour for Atletico.

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