Los Blancos will head into the el Clasico clash full of confidence after seeing off los Leones with little trouble thanks to two Kaka penalties and a CR7 strike...
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Jose Mourinho opted to leave out Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Oezil and Xabi Alonso amongst others from the starting XI in preparation of their el Clasico schedule in the coming weeks and it paid off as his side cruised to a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in San Mames on Saturday evening.
An early Kaka penalty in each half proved to be the difference between a much changed Madrid side and Athletic Bilbao.
Cristiano Ronaldo completed the route in the 70th minute with his 28th goal of the season after entering the fray in the second half.
Athletic started the brighter of the two sides but were unable to turn their early dominance into a lead, leaving Iker Casillas largely untested.
Los Blancos were awarded a 13th minute penalty when Angel Di Maria looked to latch onto a through ball the Argentine was brought down by an on-rushing Gorka Iraizoz.
Kaka stepped-up with minimal fuss and expertly placed the ball beyond the ‘keeper to give Madrid the lead inside 15 minutes.
Los Leones re-asserted their game plan after and through Fernando Llorente were creating chances to level. The Spanish striker turned Pepe before introducing Carlos Gurpegi whose effort was deflected wide of the post.
Real Madrid remained content to work on the counter, and when Kaka showed his class with a through ball, Gonzalo Higuain found himself one-on-one but the Argentine could only fire his shot straight at Iraizoz, who had stood-up well to save with his feet.
Iraizoz was called upon again when he met Di Maria 30 yards away from his goal but he gifted the ball to Higuain. The striker, though, didn’t show the same class as Dejan Stankovic, when his volley from forty-yards missed the target.The Basques began to show more directness towards Casillas’ goal as Iker Muniain had an effort from distance fumbled by the ‘keeper before Raul Albiol cleared the danger.
Chances were beginning to flow for los Blancos as Di Maria attempted an audacious chip that came close to nestling in at the far post.
Athletic Bilbao were in need to find something extra before half-time and they came close after a quick break away when Gaizka Toquero pulled wide and crossed for Llorente. The ball fell for Gurpegi bursting forward but his shot whistled past the upright.
The home-side began the second-half with positivity as they had the first. David Lopez, a half-time substitute, delivered a precise free-kick and Athletic should have levelled through Llorente’s header but it was straight at Casillas.
Los Leones undone their encouraging start to the half when Xabier Castillo needlessly barged into Di Maria inside the box and Madrid were awarded a second penalty.
Kaka resumed his role as penalty taker and hammered it past Iraizoz to double Madrid’s lead and give them breathing space ahead of the last half hour.
Toquero wasted a good chance when a cross intended for Llorente reached him at the far post but the striker couldn’t find the target when put under pressure by Albiol.
Llorente was guilty of missing a great chance soon after when his strike partner crossed and the No. 9 had a free-header. He rose high but he couldn’t trouble Casillas.
It was game over when Cristiano Ronaldo scored his side’s third goal after his introduction in the second half. The Portuguese he drove towards goal before cutting back inside onto his right foot and he coolly slotted his shot in the opposite corner, all after Granero’s stunning pass.
Madrid looked to see the game off without little trouble as Mourinho introduced Carvalho and Xabi Alonso to maintain their match fitness ahead of their trip to England midweek to face Tottenham in the second leg of the Champions League, before returning home to face Barcelona at the Bernabeu on April 16.
Joaquin Caparros will hope his side recover quickly ahead of the run-in to the end of the season. His side will still feel confident of claiming a Europa league spot next season as this represents the last tie against a side in the top eight of La Liga.