Benzema header enough for Madrid

Karim Benzema’s header gave Real Madrid a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Granada on Saturday, despite Youssef El-Arabi’s wrongly-disallowed strike.

Cristiano Ronaldo was on 322 goals, one behind record holder Raul Gonzalez, despite having played 436 fewer matches, heading into the match as Keylor Navas closed in on Iker Casillas’ personal best of five straight clean sheets.

Elsewhere, Lucas Vazquez started for the first time, replacing the injured Gareth Bale, while Isco moved in-field to assume the No 10 role behind Karim Benzema. Finally, in defence, Sergio Ramos’s dislocated shoulder meant Raphael Varane partnered Pepe at centre-back.

Granada, meanwhile, were hoping for a far-happier experience at the Santiago Bernabeu after they were humiliated 9-1 in their previous trip only five months ago.

Fortunately for them, they looked a mere shadow of that team and should have made their improvement count, Cristiano Biraghi’s cross causing all kinds of mayhem at Navas’ far post, although Marcelo somehow cleared the danger.

El-Arabi then beat the offside trap to tuck away a low cross on the counterattack, although the linesman wrongly adjudged him offside, before Isaac Success’ diagonal run towards the far post was excellently smothered by Navas.

Madrid, meanwhile, came close on a pair of occasions through Ronaldo, whose one-on-one attempt cannoned off Andres Fernandez’s trailing leg, before sending an offside header onto the crossbar.

Just moments after the restart, Success raced onto a reverse pass in the Madrid box and should have tested Navas at the very least, but the youngster could only lob his effort over the bar.

That proved to be the wake-up call Madrid needed as Benzema beat Doria in the air to meet Isco’s left-wing cross and crash a header past Fernandez at the far post.

Yet Granada continued to churn out opportunities in the hosts’ area and came a Navas glove away from equalising, when El-Arabi danced his way through but was quickly shut down by the Costa Rican.

Madrid, nonetheless, ended the match strongly as they virtually monopolised possession in the final 10 minutes and should have added two more, firstly through Ronaldo, whose angled drive was tipped wide, and substitute Denis Cheryshev, who fired a rebound off-target.

Real Madrid 1-0 Granada

Benzema 55

Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo; Kroos (Kovacic 62), Modric; Vazquez, Isco (Casemiro 85), Ronaldo; Benzema (Cheryshev 77)

Granada: Fernandez; Lopes, Doria, Lomban, Biraghi; Krhin, Marquez; Edgar (Lopez 77), Success (Ibanez 61), Rochina (Rico 67); El-Arabi

Referee: Martinez Munuera