Watch: Thibaut Courtois’ pivotal save right at the death of Real Madrid’s win over Athletic Club

Real Madrid welcomed Athletic Club to the Alfredo di Stefano intent on building on last week’s good run.

Los Blancos enjoyed a stellar seven days that saw them beat Sevilla at the Sanchez-Pizjuan, qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League by seeing off Borussia Monchengladbach and halve their gap to Atletico Madrid by winning the Madrid derby.

Athletic came into the tie without a win in three, sitting 13th in La Liga. The Basque side could have gone level on points with Barcelona had they emerged victorious from the capital.

Madrid, by contrast, were sitting in third before kick-off, and would go level on points with both Atletico and league leaders Real Sociedad should they secure victory.

They did. Toni Kroos opened the scoring for Madrid before Ander Capa got the visitors back on level terms, but a brace from Karim Benzema helped Los Blancos secure a hard-fought 3-1 win.

They had been handed a boost inside the first 15 minutes.

Raul Garcia, the Basque’s combative attacker, was given a second yellow card and sent off for a clumsy challenge on Kroos.

Kroos would prove instrumental for Madrid, giving them the lead on the stroke of half-time.

The ball fell to the German metronome at the edge of the box before he unleashed a driven effort past La Roja goalkeeper Unai Simon and into the bottom left corner.

Los Leones steeled themselves and went back at it in the second half, however, and got back on level terms in the 52nd minute.

Capa initiated and collected a smart one two and put the ball past Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois at the second attempt after seeing his first effort parried.

The Basque side continued to battle until Los Blancos got their noses back in front with 15 minutes left on the clock.

Dani Carvajal collected a short corner to drop a deep ball into the box, setting it up invitingly for Benzema to attack and steer his well-directed header into the back of the net.

Benzema then put the icing on the cake in its final moments.

Courtois made an important save before Madrid launched a counter attack that ended with Luka Modric feeding Benzema just inside the box.

The French marksman took it in stride, steadied himself and unleashed an ice-cool finish to grab his second and Madrid’s third, sending his club home and dry.

It was Courtois’ save, however, that was arguably the most pivotal in sealing the three points.

Had Athletic equalised tomorrow’s papers would be signing a very different tune indeed.

Featured image courtesy of Real Madrid CF.

Tags Athletic Club La Liga Real Madrid Thibaut Courtois