Karim Benzema

Photo by Stuart Franklin - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Benzema: ‘I’m F1’ quality compared to ‘go-kart’ Giroud

Leave a comment

It would appear that Karim Benzema lives for exactly two things in life: scoring goals and creating/participating in very public drama.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Benzema, who hasn’t feature for France’s national team since he was allegedly involved in a scandal to blackmail teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape in 2015, slammed compatriot forward Olivier Giroud as the “go-karting” alternative to his own “F1” quality.

His main gripe with Giroud doesn’t appear to actually be with the player himself, but the fact the two get compared to one another so frequently. In Benzema’s absence from Les Bleus, Giroud has been the main beneficiary, leading many to wonder if the team could have reached greater heights with Benzmea in the team instead — quotes from Sky Sports:

“You shouldn’t confuse F1 and go karting and that’s me being kind. On to the next topic. I’m not talking about him [Giroud] anymore. I just know that I’m F1.

“He has his career, he does what he wants and scores the goals that he wants to score. He’s in his corner and I’m in mine, I’m not thinking about him. If we’re talking about playing style, his suits France well.

“It’s good because there are fast players like (Kylian) Mbappe and (Antoine) Griezmann who play out wide or feed off the centre-forward. When Giroud is up front, he’s a handful for defenses, which gives the other two plenty of space to show what they can do.

“He occupies defenders and it works. It might not be brilliant to watch and you won’t say, ‘Wow, that was incredible.’ Does everyone like that style of play? I don’t know, but it suits France well.”

Giroud: 39 goals (third-highest) in 97 appearances for France. Benzema: 27 goals in 81 appearances.

La Liga: Real Madrid unbeaten in 21 games after derby win

Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) With Zinedine Zidane making all the right moves, Real Madrid added to its dominant run by defeating city rival Atletico Madrid and increasing its Spanish league lead on Saturday.

[ MORE: Klopp: “Really special” Liverpool group overcame rough half ]

Zidane’s changes at halftime proved crucial for Madrid as it defeated Atletico 1-0 in the capital derby for its eighth straight victory and a six-point lead over second-placed Barcelona, which hosts Levante on Sunday.

The loss virtually ended Atletico’s title hopes, as it stayed 13 points off the lead and was in danger of dropping to seventh place by the end of the weekend.

It was a mostly even match in the first half and Atletico had some of the most significant chances, including a close-range shot by Angel Correa that hit the post.

But Zidane changed the team’s formation in the second half and the game quickly turned in Madrid’s favor, with substitute Vinicius Junior starting the play that led to Karim Benzema’s winner from close range in the 56th minute.

Benzema hit a one-timer from just outside the six-yard box after a low cross from Ferland Mendy, whose run inside the area met a well-placed through ball by Vinicius Junior.

[ MORE: Man United, Wolves split spoils at Old Trafford ]

Zidane started the match with five midfielders, with Benzema as the lone striker. The formation was first used in the Spanish Super Cup. But after the lackluster first half, he successfully changed it back to a 4-3-3 scheme with Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius Junior coming off the bench to flank Benzema up front.

They replaced midfielders Isco and Toni Kroos, giving the team greater offensive depth and opening up the Atletico defense.

“I wasn’t happy with what I was seeing,” Zidane said. “We had to make a change. We entered the second half playing differently and we showed better attitude. We were better in all areas and deserved the victory.”

Madrid was unbeaten against Atletico in the league in seven consecutive matches, but it hadn’t defeated its rival at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in six straight games.

The win extended Madrid’s unbeaten streak in all competitions to 21 matches. One of its victories came against Atletico in a penalty shootout in the Spanish Super Cup final this month in Saudi Arabia.

[ MORE: Bundesliga: Bayern back in first; Haaland, BVB make history ]

Atletico’s winless streak has reached five matches in all competitions, one of its worst stints since coach Diego Simeone arrived nearly a decade ago. The latest defeat has limited its main challenge to trying to make it back to the Champions League.

“There is reason to be concerned, of course,” Simeone said. “All we can do is keep working to try to get out of this uncomfortable situation.”

Atletico loudly complained of a penalty not awarded for the team after a challenge by Madrid midfielder Casemiro on forward Alvaro Morata in the first half.

There was a moment of silence to honor Kobe Bryant before the match.

La Liga roundup: Benzema’s last-minute heroics earns Real Madrid valuable point (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A stunning draw from Real Madrid against Valencia highlight La Liga’s Sunday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Valencia 1-1 Real Madrid

Real Madrid didn’t get the victory that would have put them over nemesis Barcelona, but they did get a last-second, much-needed equalizer from Karim Benzema to stay on par with the Catalonians.

Heading into midweek’s El Clasico, Barcelona and Real Madrid remain tied with 35 points, although the former remains top-of-the-table with a better goal differential.

 

With the game winding down and Real Madrid’s chances of pulling off a stunning draw slimming, Zinedine Zidane order his men to push forward in his team’s final corner kick of the night.

With Thibaut Courtois inside the box ready to pounce on the lofting ball, the ball was place directly in front of the Belgian. He headed the ball into Jaume Doménech’s hands. With the ball lingering inside the box, Benzema wasted no time, rifling the ball into the back of the net.

In the 78th minute, Carlos Soler put the home side in front, scoring his first goal of the season. With the win, Valencia extend their unbeaten streak to five games.

Next for Real Madrid is the game of the season: El Clasico against Barcelona on Wednesday, while Valencia travel to Real Valladolid in league play.

Elsewhere

Getafe 2-0 Real Valladolid

Celta Vigo 2-2 RCD Mallorca

Espanyol 2-2 Real Betis

Sevilla 1-2 Villarreal

La Liga roundup: Barcelona, Real Madrid remain level on points after wins (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Routine wins from league favorites Barcelona and Real Madrid, highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Barcelona 5-2 RCD Mallorca

It was a special night at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.

Fresh from winning the Ballon d’Or for a record sixth time, Lionel Messi was greeted by his three children on the field, who handed him a shinny, golden ball – given yearly to the best player in the world – prior to the first whistle.

From that point on, it was evident that it would be all smiles for everyone tied to the defending champions at the stadium (and for those watching remotely) on Saturday.

 

That was the case.

Antoine Griezmann – a topic of conversation due to lack of productivity at Barcelona this season – kicked off the game with a solo run and subsequent goal in the seventh minute, opening the floodgates.

As a celebration of his latest, individual accomplishment, Messi showcased the power and precision of his left foot at the tune of a hat-trick. The Argentine ace scored twice in the first half and another in consolation time, putting his season total mark at a league-best 12 goals.

The moment and goal of the night (possibly of the season) didn’t directly involve Messi, however. With a daring, emphatic and genius back-heel strike, not only did Luis Suarez put the home side up 4-1, but cemented himself in the ballot for best goal of the season.

With 34 and a better goal differential than Real Madrid, Barcelona remain atop of La Liga ahead of their clash with Inter Milan on Tuesday, while Mallorca hope Ante Budimir can score another brace; this time against a struggling Celta Vigo next weekend.

Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol

With goals from Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, Real Madrid comfortably cruised past a struggling Espanyol.

With the majority of Real Madrid in Espanyol’s final third following a recovered free-kick attempt, Benzema charged his way into the box before laying off a ball to Varane, who not a proven goalscorer whatsoever, placed the ball into the back of the net with ease.

It was the 37th minute, and the home side were up 1-0 against a poor Espanyol.

With a notable superior style at hand, Los Blancos continued to surge forward. Opportunities at goal were generated but the ball wouldn’t go past ex-Real Madrid ‘keeper Diego Lopez.

Then, in the 79th minute, Benzema registered his 11th goal of the season, finishing an off-balance pass from Federico Valverde inside the box.

Winners in their last La Liga bouts, Real Madrid now prepare for their Champions League Group Stage finale against Club Brugge midweek. Espanyol, despite being in the drop zone, host CSKA Moscow in their Europa League Group Stage finale. The Catalonian club lead Group H with 11 points after five matches.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Granada 3-0 Alaves

Levante 2-4 Valencia

UCL AT HALF: Spurs down in Mourinho’s home debut; VAR stars at Real

Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The UEFA Champions League is seeing some nerves on display on the penultimate match day of the group stage.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

In the case of Man City, Shakhtar Donetsk has been very up to the task at the Etihad Stadium and the first goal has yet to arrive in England.

At Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, however, things are dicier for the hosts in Jose Mourinho’s first home match as boss. Spurs are down 2-1 after a beautiful opener and sloppy follow-up have Olympiacos in front, with Dele Alli pulling one back before the break.

Elsewhere…

Karim Benzema put Real Madrid ahead of visiting Paris Saint-Germain, but the hosts looked down to be 10 men when Thibaut Courtois slid Kylian Mbappe on the edge of stoppage time.

VAR spotted a foul in the build-up against PSG’s Idrissa Gana Gueye, however, and it pulled back the entire play. A dodgy decision goes in favor of Real at the Bernabeu? Gasp.

Bayern Munich has a lead at Red Star Belgrade through a 14th minute Leon Goretzka goal, and the other matches are scoreless.

Juventus is up on Atletico Madrid through a late Paulo Dybala goal.

Group A
PSG 1-0 Real Madrid
Galatasaray 1-1 Club Brugge — FINAL

Group B
Red Star Belgrade 0-1 Bayern Munich
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Olympiacos

Group C
Man City 0-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Atalanta 1-0 Dinamo Zagreb

Group D
Juventus 1-0 Atletico Madrid
Lokomotiv Moscow 0-2 Bayer Leverkusen — FINAL