Real Madrid 1-1 Athletic Bilbao: Benzema gets farewell goal
Karim Benzema marked his Real Madrid farewell with a goal in a 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao, as Los Blancos clung onto second place on the final day of the LaLiga season.
The veteran forward — who is expected to head to Saudi Arabia after announcing his departure on Sunday — converted a penalty as Madrid fought back to clinch a point at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Athletic had been denied an early opener when Thibaut Courtois kept out Mikel Vesga's spot-kick but Ernesto Valverde's visitors struck first through Oihan Sancet after half-time.
Benzema's equaliser however cost them a spot in the Europa Conference League, with Carlo Ancelotti's men clinging onto second following Atleti's 2-2 draw with Villarreal elsewhere.
Athletic had the chance to go ahead from the spot when Toni Kroos handled Inaki Williams' header 10 minutes in but Courtois sprung to his right to push Vesga's tame kick away.
Unai Simon subsequently tipped Vinicius Junior's drive wide as Madrid's threat grew, and the Athletic goalkeeper remained alert to prevent Rodrygo from rounding him as an open first half ended goalless.
Athletic saw another bright start rewarded in the second half though with Ander Herrera dispossessing Dani Ceballos to tee up Sancet, who squeezed his shot beyond Courtois at the second attempt.
Madrid reaped a penalty of their own however after Yuri Berchiche caught Eder Militao in the face, and Benzema made no mistake from the spot, before he was substituted to a standing ovation.
Los Blancos were unable to find a winner without their talisman however, with Rodrygo missing a glaring chance, but their point nevertheless preserved second to end the season.
What does it mean? Benzema bows out with a goal
Few players have been as crucial to Madrid's most recent golden era as Benzema, who leaves Los Blancos with five Champions Leagues, four LaLiga titles and three Copa del Rey winners medals to his name.
There may have been a hint of controversy about the decision to Madrid their penalty, but there was never any doubt about Benzema's composed finish, which took his overall goal tally for the club to 354.
Only Cristiano Ronaldo, with 450, has scored more goals in the famous white shirt.
Madrid cling on for silver
Despite Madrid failing to find a winner, Jorge Pascual's last-gasp leveller for Villarreal against Atletico Madrid ensured Los Blancos held on to finish as runners-up to Barcelona.
That meant Madrid avoided their worst league finish since claiming bronze in 2018-19, retaining the bragging rights over their city rivals.
Courtois on the spot
It was a tale of two penalties at the Bernabeu, one scored by Benzema, one saved by Courtois at the other end.
Excluding shoot-outs, the Madrid goalkeeper has now saved five of the last 10 penalties he has faced in all competitions, having only kept out one of the previous 12.
Key Opta facts:
- Madrid have won 14 points from losing positions in LaLiga this season, with only Girona (15) and Villarreal (18) recovering more.
- Sancet has scored 10 goals this season, the highest tally of any Athletic player in LaLiga across the 2022-23 campaign.
- Madrid have scored in 33 of their 38 LaLiga games this term, a feat no other team has exceeded.
- Athletic have failed to win in their last three LaLiga games, marking their longest winless run since mid-May.
- Madrid have scored in each of their last three LaLiga games, claiming five goals in that run.
Madrid will seek a replacement for Benzema ahead of their bid to reclaim the league title next season, while Athletic will target European qualification after a frustrating eighth-placed finish.