Madrid's young guns shine as Benzema and Ronaldo struggle
MADRID: Real Madrid's high-profile 'BBC' forward line has come in for criticism this season and while some of their team mates have defended the old guard, the club's new generation are doing the heavy lifting for Zinedine Zidane's team.
That was again the case on Sunday as Madrid beat Eibar 3-0, with Karim Benzema dropped to the bench for 21-year-old Marco Asensio, who forced an own goal and scored Real's second, while in-form playmaker Isco, 25, dominated in midfield.
Gareth Bale is still out injured and Real's all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo struggled to get involved in the game up front but, thanks to the contributions of Asensio and fellow Spain international Isco, it did not matter.
Benzema bore the brunt of the criticism after being panned for his display against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League on Tuesday, but the France forward at least set up Madrid's third goal, finished by Marcelo.
"If I talk about my team mates, I will defend them to the death. Benzema is a cracking (player), just like the rest of them," Marcelo told Movistar after the game.
Madrid have been linked in Spanish and British media with a move for Spurs' England striker Harry Kane, who scored twice in the Premeir League on Sunday, to replace the Frenchman.
"Harry Kane scores again. Thankfully Zidane thinks Benzema is the best so they won’t be interested in poaching him," wrote former Tottenham and Barcelona forward Gary Lineker on Twitter after Kane helped Spurs thrash Liverpool 4-1 at Wembley.
But Zidane defended Benzema while team mates Marcelo and midfielder Dani Ceballos heaped praise on the Frenchman.
"Karim is the best striker in the world, people are very wrong about him. There are few players of his level," said Ceballos, who did not like the whistles aimed at his team mate by fans at the Santiago Bernabeu.
"It's the time to stick our neck out for Benzema, he's the player that helps the team play best. The whistles are unfair. We have Cristiano, the best number seven and the best player in the world."
Zidane told a news conference: "Lineker can have an opinion, it's normal, but I don't think Benzema is over-rated. I enjoy watching Benzema play."
While the 'BBC' have been supported off the pitch, on it they have also been carried by their team mates at times, with Isco and Asensio dragging Madrid up to third on Sunday, back within five points of La Liga leaders Barca.
The tireless Isco helped Madrid control the game throughout and he crossed for Asensio's volley in the 28th minute, which doubled Madrid's lead after Paulo Oliveira's own goal.
Asensio, meanwhile, offered magical touches which delighted the Bernabeu and showed that even if the 'BBC's' troubles continue, Madrid's newest hope is ready to help chip in with goals - he is the club's top scorer in La Liga with three.