Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema reacts during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and SD Eibar at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on April 6, 2019.
Karim Benzema is one of the few Real Madrid players to have had his future guaranteed by Zinedine Zidane and he repaid his coach’s faith on Saturday by scoring twice in a 2-1 win over Eibar.
Madrid had to come from behind at the Santiago Bernabeu after a dismal first-half performance included Marc Cardona, playing after an injury to Pedro Leon during the warm-up, gave Eibar a surprise lead.
But Madrid improved, and two excellent Benzema headers ensured the groans and whistles that had soured the atmosphere for much of the opening hour turned to cheers and applause at the end.
Much of the frustration was again directed at Gareth Bale, who started here after being dropped by Zidane for the defeat to Valencia on Wednesday.
Bale’s below-par performances and a lack of support from either coach or fans seem so inter-linked now, it is difficult to know what comes first. He departed again to whistles with 14 minutes left, a conciliatory hand slap from Zidane offering little consolation as he trudged off.
Benzema’s trajectory has been the opposite, the Frenchman has six goals in five La Liga games, four of them since Zidane took over.
Madrid’s win means they are 10 points adrift of leaders Barcelona to 10 points and two behind Atletico Madrid. Barca and Atletico play each other later on Saturday. Eibar stay 11th.
Zidane has insisted his players are not on trial but his changing line-ups at least suggest he is examining his options before the summer.
This time Sergio Ramos was rested, while Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Lucas Vazquez also dropped out. In came Nacho, Federico Valverde, Isco and Bale.
Bale’s half began badly as he failed to control Valverde’s overhit pass and then got worse as he missed a one-on-one when his finish was saved by Marko Dmitrovic.