Title hopes grow thinner for Real Madrid

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Athletic Club 1-0 Real Madrid: Aduriz blows title
race wide open
Barcelona will move top of La Liga if they can beat
Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou on Sunday after Carlo
Ancelotti’s side suffered a shock defeat
Mar 7, 2015 19:52:00
Aritz Aduriz blew the race for La Liga wide open
after his goal gave Athletic Bilbao a stunning 1-0
win over Real Madrid.
Fresh from beating Espanyol on Wednesday to
reach the Copa del Rey final, Ernesto Valverde’s
men picked up an unexpected three points in
Saturday’s clash at San Mames thanks to
Aduriz’s first-half header.
For Real, who thumped Bilbao 5-0 in October’s
reverse fixture, it marks another disappointing
showing after they were held to a 1-1 draw at
home to Villarreal last weekend.
Head coach Carlo Ancelotti demanded a response
to that performance in his pre-match news
conference, but Madrid failed to heed his call and a
lacklustre first-half display saw them go in behind.
The European champions improved after the
interval and only some excellent Bilbao defending
prevented Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo
from scoring simple tap-ins, while Gareth Bale
nearly grabbed a fortuitous leveller late on.
Ultimately, though, the visitors failed to find an
equalising goal and they will slip to second if
Barcelona beat Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.
Bilbao’s first win over Real since January
2010 means they move up to eighth.
The home side seized the early initiative as Aduriz
flashed a shot wide of the left-hand post in just the
second minute, but Bilbao found themselves
chasing the ball for much of the opening quarter.
For all the visitors’ possession, clear-cut chances
proved few and far between, although Xabier
Etxeita made a potentially crucial interception to
stop Benzema’s centre picking out the unmarked
Ronaldo, while Pepe headed over from the
resulting corner.
And Madrid’s failure to break down Bilbao’s
stubborn defence was punished in the 26th minute.
Mikel Rico hung an excellent cross between the
visiting centre-backs and Aduriz timed his run
perfectly to meet the delivery with a thumping
header that nestled in the right-hand corner.
Ancelotti’s men had failed to register a shot on
target by half-time, but the break seemed to do the
European champions some good.
Only an excellent interception from Mikel
Balenziaga prevented Benzema from tapping
in Ronaldo’s cross, while the Portuguese seemed
set to add the finishing touch to a Bale ball across
the six-yard box before goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz
palmed away from danger.
Iraizoz was called into action again in the 74th
minute, racing off his line to prevent Ronaldo
from sliding home.
At the other end Bilbao almost stole a second
when Dani Carvajal’s attempted defensive header
set up Aduriz, whose header hit the outside of the
left-hand post.
As the clock wound down Madrid came
desperately close to making it 1-1 when an
apparent cross from Bale, delivered from just in
front of the halfway line, sailed over Iraizoz and
rebounded off the right-hand post.
The equaliser proved elusive, however, as Madrid
slipped to a fifth Liga defeat of the season.