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Karim Benzema brace as Madrid beats Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in virus-hit game


Karim Benzema struck two quick goals to lead Real Madrid to a 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday in a Spanish league game missing several players because of coronavirus infections.

Defending champion Atlético Madrid slumped to a fourth consecutive league defeat after losing 2-1 at Granada, extending its worst run in the competition since Diego Simeone took charge a decade ago.

A total of 12 players between Madrid and Bilbao missed the game after testing positive for COVID-19. That included Madrid midfielder Luka Modric and Bilbao’s Unai Simón, the goalkeeper for Spain’s national side.

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Benzema started the scoring with a superb strike four minutes into the match at San Mamés. He struck again in the seventh for his league-leading 15th goal of the season.

Oihan Sancet hit right back for the host to close out a wild first 10 minutes of the game.

Iñaki Williams went close to grabbing an equaliser with half-hour to play, but a defence anchored by Éder Militão held on to increase Madrid’s lead to eight points over second-placed Sevilla.

The game came hours after the Spanish league strengthened its testing protocols to try to prevent teams being hit by outbreaks. In addition to Modric, Madrid was without David Alaba, Isco Alarcón, Marco Asensio, Rodrygo, Gareth Bale, Marcelo and backup goalkeeper Andriy Lunin. Besides Simón, Bilbao was without Iñigo Martínez, Jokin Ezkieta and Alex Berenguer.

Benzema dazzled with his opening goal from the side of the area. The France striker stunned Bilbao when he used one touch to send a pass from Toni Kroos curling into the far corner of the net.

Another loss

Atlético had not lost more than two league games in a row since Simeone became its coach in December 2011. This month it has lost to Mallorca, Real Madrid and Sevilla before its defeat in Granada.

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Atlético started well with a goal from João Félix only three minutes after kickoff.

Darwin Machís then leveled in the 18th and Jorge Molina scored from a cross by Granada striker Luis Suárez to complete the comeback in the 61st.

Atlético was left in fifth place, some 17 points off Madrid’s pace.

“We are not getting the wins like we used to,” Simeone said. “Many times we won games we did not deserve to win, now we are losing games we deserved to win. Lapses in concentration in the little details is costing us games.”

Molina was coming off a record-setting match on Sunday when he became the oldest player in Europe’s top five leagues to score a hat trick at 39 years and 241 days in a 4-1 win over Mallorca.

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