Benzema’s Late Equalizer Denies Luis Suárez And Atlético In Madrid Derby

As Ray Hudson said, “The Karim rises to the top.”

Up until the 88th minute, it looked as though Luis Suárez’s elegant opening goal in the 15th minute would decide Sunday’s massive Madrid derby. Atlético had established its LaLiga title credentials by playing some mesmerizing football in the first half, but Real Madrid made Diego Simeone’s side revert to its defensive-minded approach in the second before Karim Benzema captured a dramatic equalizer at the Wanda Metropolitano with minutes remaining.

Atlético looked sharp from the opening whistle and played through Real’s midfield with joy and confidence. Thomas Lemar, Yannick Carrasco and Ángel Correa were all easy on the eye, but the first goal arrived when Kieran Trippier released Marcos Llorente out wide, and the Spanish attacker fed Luis Suárez in stride bearing down on Thibaut Courtois’ goal.

The way the Uruguayan striker worked his shot around the 6-7 keeper — using the outside of his boot to curl it inside the far post — was a subtle piece of brilliance.

After their disappointing performance against Chelsea in the Champions League, it was nice to see Atlético turn on the style against its eternal rival. 

We had some controversy before the halftime whistle with the referee turning away a Real penalty appeal after consulting the pitch-side monitor, and then LaLiga’s fancy pitch-side camera captured an animated discussion between Suárez and Lucas Vázquez.  

The keepers took center stage in the second half with Courtois producing a fine one-on-one save against Suárez before smothering another shot from the Uruguayan just minutes later. At the other end, Jan Oblak produced a miracle double save with both shots coming from Benzema.

Atlético was holding on for dear life by any means necessary — finishing with 10 more fouls and four more yellow cards than their opponent — but the resistance was finally broken at the death after Benzema danced his way through a sea of defenders at the top of the box, fed Casemiro and dutifully swept home the return pass.

The draw leaves Atlético first in the table on 59 points and still with a game in hand on its rivals, but Barcelona is now just three points back and Real five. Atlético plays again on Wednesday against Athletic Club at the Wanda. Real plays next Saturday against 17th-place Elche at the Alfredo Di Stéfano. 

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