Real Madrid 1-1 Athletic Bilbao: Late Cristiano Ronaldo flick denies Bilbao historic win
By Ron Walker
Last Updated: 19/04/18 8:29am
Cristiano Ronaldo’s late flick saved Real Madrid from an embarrassing home defeat with a 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao.
The draw gave Athletic their first point at the Bernabeu since 2005, but could have had all three after leading for so long once Inaki Williams lifted the ball over Keylor Navas with 14 minutes gone.
Even before that, Real struck the bar when Ronaldo nodded beyond Kepa, and they were denied by a number of fine saves by the Bilbao goalkeeper.
In the second half, the hosts' lack of a final ball looked like it might leave them facing a fourth home defeat of the campaign until Luka Modric's 25-yard drive was touched in by Ronaldo's backheel to earn them an 87th-minute point.
Real Madrid: Navas (5), Carvajal (6), Varane (6), Ramos (5), Marcelo (7), Kroos (6), Modric (7), Asensio (7), Vasquez (5), Benzema (6), Ronaldo (7).
Subs: Bale (5), Isco (6).
Athletic Bilbao: Kepa (8), De Marcos (7), Nunez (9), Martinez (8), Balenziaga (6), San Jose (7), Iturraspe (6), Lekue (6), Garcia (6), Cordoba (7), Williams (7).
Subs: Muniain (7), Susaeta (6), Aduriz (n/a).
Man of the match: Unai Nunez
Athletic's gameplan was evident to frustrate Real and use Williams' pace on the break, which bore fruit from their only dangerous attack of the first half.
Inigo Cordoba picked out the 23-year-old with a perfect through-ball inside Sergio Ramos, and he showed excellent composure to lift it over Navas for the opener.
Real were let down by their final ball throughout the opening 45 minutes - working good positions with ease before becoming frustrated by Athletic's two excellent centre-backs, and the sprightly Kepa in goal.
Ronaldo's header cannoned off the bar after just nine minutes, before Lucas Vasquez failed to find him with a tap-in looking a certainty.
Cristiano Ronaldo was the most notable of four Real Madrid changes, with Dani Carvajal and Rafael Varane also back in defence. Again, Gareth Bale found himself back on the bench.
There were three alterations for Athletic Bilbao following their 3-2 home defeat to Deportivo, with Unai Nunez, Inigo Lekue and Ander Iturraspe back in.
Rafael Varane was also denied at full-stretch by Kepa, but after the break Real's chances dried up as Athletic smelt the prospect of an upset.
They were inches away from doubling their lead when Cordoba's blocked shot fell for Raul Garcia, who struck the crossbar from 12 yards.
But just as they looked to be headed for a shock win, a Real corner was recycled to Modric, who fired a powerful effort towards the corner, which was turned beyond Kepa by Ronaldo's quick-thinking flick.
Ultimately, the draw worked in Real's favour, with fourth-placed Valencia losing at home to Getafe, while a first point at the Bernabeu since 2005 was always a good result for Athletic.
Man of the match - Unai Nunez
Athletic's two centre-backs were both magnificent, as was goalkeeper Kepa, but it was Nunez who shone the most, especially in the second half, making a number of crucial interventions to keep his side ahead.
His endeavour, making three blocks, two interceptions and as many tackles, was excellent and if the 21-year-old can keep up these performances, he may draw some interested eyes from elsewhere.
Real Madrid travel to Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final next Wednesday (kick-off 7.45pm), while Athletic Bilbao host Levante at 8pm on Monday.