Rarely do you see a player notch a brace and supporters still get on his back for not doing more. For as much as Karim Benzema did in El Clasico on Sunday, his two misses will loom large, as Real Madrid fell 4-3 to Barcelona in the Santiago Bernabeu.
The French striker leveled the match in the 20th minute. It was a simple header from a cross off the boot of Angel Di Maria. Benzema did a great job of elevating above Javier Mascherano and powering the ball past Victor Valdes.
The second goal came four minutes later, once again off a cross from Di Maria. The degree of difficulty was much higher this time, though, as Benzema let the ball bounce off his thigh—allowing him to open up—and fired a right-footed shot into the back of the net.
Arsenal scout Danny Karbassiyoon called the goal "fantastic":
Benzema's little thigh and volley. That was just absolutely fantastic.— Danny Karbassiyoon (@dkarbassiyoon) March 23, 2014
Even Manchester City centre-back Vincent Kompany took notice:
In my opinion. Benzema, Messi, Di Maria and Pique, stand outs so far. Anyone? #Clasico— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) March 23, 2014
Benzema was subbed off in the 66th minute to make way for Raphael Varane. That was all the time he needed to enter hallowed ground, per OptaJose:
1 - Karim Benzema is the first Real Madrid player to score a league brace against Barcelona at the Bernabeu since Raul in 2001. Explosion.— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 23, 2014
The brace was the quickest by a player in El Clasico since 1978, per Goal USA:
Benzema's two goals in four minutes were the fastest back-to-back goals by a single player in a Clásico since 1978.— Goal USA (@GoalUSA) March 23, 2014
However, Gabriele Marcotti astutely pointed out that the Madrid No. 9 had two other golden opportunities to score, which he wasted:
That makes it at least two that Benzema has left on the table out there. (Though he did look offside on the replay)— Gabriele Marcotti (@Marcotti) March 23, 2014
The chance in the 52nd minute was particularly galling, per Fox Soccer Trax:
52: Bale goes on a looong run through Barca's half and plays in Benzema, whose shot is well saved by Valdes! That was almost point blank.— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) March 23, 2014
In a match like this, the margin for error can be minute, and when you have a chance to put Barcelona away, you must take it. Imagine if Benzema had finished either of those chances. You hate to play the "What if" game, but on the other hand, when Real Madrid lose by virtue of a late penalty, you can't help but to look at the moments that changed the game.
Spanish football journalist Jimmy Burns believed that Madrid should have won this match, were it not for the Frenchman missing with that shot in the 52nd minute:
This was a match lost by Real Madrid rather than won by Barca. Benzema could have scored hatrick. Valdes saved— Jimmy Burns (@Jimmy_Burns) March 23, 2014
Real Madrid maintain a one-point lead over Barcelona, so it's not the end of the world. They remain in the La Liga driver's seat.
Los Blancos do have to play Real Sociedad away, which could be a possible banana peel, so the season is not yet over. And if Madrid do throw away the lead, you wonder how much people will look back on Benzema's performance and rue the missed opportunities.