BARCELONA: Zinedine Zidane will not forget his first clasico as coachof Real Madrid in a hurry.
While all the pre-match focus had been on the world, European and Spanish champions honouring he memory of Johan Cruyff, Zidane’s Madrid oprovided a winning reninder that football, basically, is all about the next result.
Madrid, far rarer winners in Camp Nou than are Barcelona in the Estadio Bernabeu, went behind to a goal from Gerard Pique, levelled through Karim Benzema, were reduced to 10 men by the expulsion of Sergio Ramos then snatched snatch victory in the closing minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo converted a Gareth Bale cross.
Earlier Bale had had a goal disallowed, one of a number of contentious refereeing decisions.
Defeat did nothing to shake Barcelona’s status at the top of th table but – combined with Atletico de Madrd’s 5-1 thrasghing of Betis – it trimmed their lead. Atletico are within six points, Real within seven.
Madrid’s victory was not only a notable early-career scalp for novice coach Zidane, who took over in midseason from Rafa Benitez, but racheted up the Benzema-for-France dilemma.
The 28-year-old was excluded from Euro 2016 consideration over the Valbuena sex tape affaire but, since Zidane’s takeover, has been in the form oif his life.
Benzema, whose personal life appears as murky as his football is magificent, has scored 10 goals in his last 10 league games and has had the imminent threat of legal action over the tape lifted.
French federation president Noel Le Graet and coach Didier Deschamps have a delicate dilemma. Not that Madrid care. Indeed president Florentino Perez might prefer Benzema to be left to concentrate on his club football.