Benzema nets treble as Madrid turn on style against Almeria
Karim Benzema hit a hat-trick for Real Madrid as the champions thrashed Almeria 4-2 to cut the gap on La Liga leaders Barcelona to eight points on Saturday.
The French striker climbed to 17 goals in La Liga this season, one behind Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski, the division’s top scorer.
Benzema netted his treble in the first half and Rodrygo added the fourth early in the second for Madrid, while Lazaro and Lucas Robertone struck for the visitors, 15th.
Almeria coach Rubi made several changes to his regular side, clearly unconvinced his team could take points from the Santiago Bernabeu — the visit of Elche on Tuesday should be more profitable in their survival bid.
Madrid played with freedom in attack during an entertaining game, albeit one low on tension with their hopes of retaining the title minimal.
“In attack the team is very dangerous, with the quality of Karim, Vini, Rodrygo, with the ball we play very well,” Ancelotti told reporters.
“There are games where the offensive level looks very good, like today.”
Both Barca and Madrid suffered midweek defeats with Los Blancos tumbling 4-2 at Girona where Argentine striker Taty Castellanos scored four.
Perhaps chastened by that pummelling, coach Carlo Ancelotti deployed Aurelien Tchouameni at the base of the midfield, instead of using Toni Kroos there again.
Benzema also returned after missing the visit to Montilivi with a knock and it paid deadly dividends for Los Blancos.
Vinicius Junior danced away from two defenders to get to the touchline and squared the ball to Benzema for a simple finish in the fifth minute.
The forward doubled his tally and Madrid’s lead after 17 minutes, although this time the credit belonged to Rodrygo.
The Brazilian winger showed great strength and skill before teeing up Benzema to finish.
Rodrygo’s assist was one of the highlights of the game, with the forward backheeling the ball to himself to escape Samuel Costa.
“I think it was a pass to myself, I didn’t have anywhere to go, it was a nice pass to myself with my heel,” Rodrygo told DAZN.
The 35-year-old completed his hat-trick after 42 minutes from the penalty spot after Largie Ramazani clumsily fouled Lucas Vazquez.
Benzema’s strikes helped him move two goals ahead of former Madrid attacker Hugo Sanchez to become the fourth top scorer in La Liga of all time, on 236 goals.
Almeria’s Belgian winger Ramazani did make amends for his mistake by setting up Lazaro to tap home for Almeria in stoppage time at the end of the first half.
If it gave the visitors any comeback hopes, they were crushed early in the second half when Rodrygo turned on the edge of the box and launched a rocket into the top corner.
Robertone headed home on the hour mark for Almeria as Madrid’s defence switched off.
Following an impressive haul of seven clean sheets in nine games, Madrid have now let in six goals in their last two matches, with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City looming in the Champions League semi-finals.
Vinicius made way in the final stages after taking a knock but Ancelotti said the winger would be fit to play in the Copa del Rey final next weekend.
“He took a blow on the knee but it’s nothing, I think in a couple of days he will recover well, he’s banned for the next game and he will be fine for the cup final,” said the coach.
Vinicius saw his 10th yellow card of the season in La Liga for complaining about being fouled, and will miss Madrid’s visit to face Real Sociedad on Tuesday.
“It’s quite surprising he has 10 yellows, not even the ugliest midfielder in La Liga has that many,” added Ancelotti.
“He has to improve in some aspects but I think they’ve shown him too many yellows, and not enough for the kicks he’s been given.”
Benzema hit the post in the final stages, while Madrid substitute Marco Asensio struck the woodwork twice as Ancelotti’s side toyed with Almeria.
The hosts played slick football even though the pitch at the Bernabeu has deteriorated, with the club planning to replace it before City visit in May.