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Celta stun Barca 4-1, Real's Benzema hits double to sink Bilbao

24 September 2015, 08:33

Barcelona  - A Karim Benzema brace gave Real Madrid a 2-1 victory at Athletic Bilbao and lifted them to the top of La Liga on goal difference ahead of Celta Vigo, who thrashed Barcelona 4-1 on Wednesday with Iago Aspas hitting a double.

Villarreal are also in a three way tie for first place on 13 points after they beat Malaga 1-0 away, while Barcelona are a point behind.

Benzema took full advantage of a poor backpass by Mikel San Jose and fired home to put Real ahead after 19 minutes.

Bilbao showed typical fighting spirit and a fine diving header from Sabin Merino ended Real keeper Keylor Navas' record unbeaten start to the season after 67 minutes, but they were only level for three minutes.

Benzema, a threat all night to the Athletic rearguard, was quickest to an Isco cross and knocked it in from close range.

Real and Celta now have 13 points after five games while Barca are a point behind.

"It was very tough but we worked hard and we are happy with the win," Real defender Raphael Varane told reporters.

"The league will be very tough and the key is the consistency which we are showing."

Also read: Benzema back in Real Madrid training

After disappointing spells at Liverpool and Sevilla, Aspas is back to his best this season having returned to Celta and struck clinical finishes in either half against a Barca side who were far from their normal dominant selves.

Nolito, a former Barca youth player, fired his fifth goal in as many games to put Celta ahead after 25 minutes with a pinpoint curling drive from the left of the area.

Aspas then chipped the ball over keeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen for the second minutes later.

It was clear that it was not going to be Barca's day when Lionel Messi struck the woodwork after 52 minutes with only keeper Sergio Alvarez to beat and then Aspas raced clear and slotted home on 55 minutes.

Barcelona's Neymar scored from a tight angle after 80 minutes but Celta substitute John Guidetti volleyed in their fourth minutes later.

"If we are going to lose then I would prefer to do so against a team like that which doesn't try playing tricks," Barca coach Luis Enrique told a news conference.

"We saw the quality that Celta have and that was the reason why we lost. They performed in every sense well and all we can do is congratulate them."

The players in the blue of Celta could have been mistaken for Barca the way they pressed the visitors back with their quick movement and link-up play.

Ter Stegen could only get his fingertips to Nolito's strike into the top corner and then Gerard Pique hesitated in possession on the halfway line with the ball finding its way to Aspas who ran through and lifted the ball over the keeper.

After the break Barca pressed forward but left themselves wide open at the back. Messi hit the woodwork and then shortly after Aspas latched onto a long punt forward, evaded a challenge from Dani Alves, and found the corner with his shot.

Messi set up Neymar for a consolation while Guidetti was then given space in the area and cracked the ball home.

Real's Mateo Kovacic was given the chance of playing in the trident behind Benzema with Gareth Bale still out injured.

Benzema was the visitors' most dangerous player on the night and he was quick to pounce on San Jose's mistake to put them ahead.

Navas, who had been close to joining Manchester United during the transfer window, had set a club record start to the season by not conceding in five games, but he was finally beaten when Sabin's excellent header thundered past.

Benzema secured the win with a predatory finish.

- Reuters


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