Real Madrid Settle for Scoreless Draw vs. Athletic Bilbao in La Liga

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIDecember 22, 2019

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema reacts after failing a scoring chance during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Sunday Dec. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Paul White/Associated Press

Real Madrid were held to a goalless draw by Athletic Bilbao in the final La Liga fixture of 2019 on Sunday at the Santiago Bernabeu.   

Los Blancos created plenty of chances in a dominant first-half performance but could not find a way past goalkeeper Unai Simon.

Toni Kroos smashed a shot against the underside of the crossbar after a storming run, while Karim Benzema had an effort backheeled off the line by defender Unai Nunez.

The hosts also survived a let-off just behind half-time. Kenan Kodro found the top corner with a shot after a quick break but saw his effort ruled out for offside.

Real Madrid piled on the pressure after the break but endured more frustration as substitutes Nacho Fernandez and Luka Jovic were both denied by the woodwork.

Athletic managed to cling on for a hard-fought point that sees Real Madrid stay in second place but drop two points behind fierce rivals Barcelona at the top of the table.

Zinedine Zidane was without the suspended Casemiro for Sunday's clash and made four changes to the team that drew with Barcelona in El Clasico, bringing in Eder Militao, Luka Modric, Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo.

Athletic Bilbao made six changes to their team that beat Intercity in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday with key players such as Simon, Yuri Berchiche, Dani Garcia, Inaki Williams and Kodro all back in the starting XI.

Vinicius Jr. brought supporters to their feet early on. The Brazilian won possession on the edge of the box and swapped passes with Benzema but saw his shot blocked by Simon:

LaLiga @LaLigaEN

Great skill from Vinicius, top save from Unai Simon! 🎩⛔ #RealMadridAthletic https://t.co/OqQoVkEzG6

Real Madrid kept pressing and went even closer when Kroos stormed through Athletic's three centre-backs and rifled a shot that beat Simon but smashed against the underside of the crossbar and away to safety.

At the other end of the pitch, Real Madrid needed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to be alert to deny Inaki Williams on the break:

LaLiga @LaLigaEN

A BIG HAND from Courtois! ✋ #RealMadridAthletic https://t.co/SwN8tvjogu

The chances continued to flow for the hosts. Benzema rounded Simon on the half-hour mark and clipped the ball across goal from a tight angle only to see Nunez manage to get back and flick it clear.

Athletic also needed Simon to save a firm Benzema header from a Rodrygo cross and thought they had taken the lead against the run of play when Kodro lashed a shot past Courtois that was flagged for offside.

Real Madrid were forced into a change after the break with Nacho coming on for the injured Militao, and the substitute headed against the crossbar from a Kroos corner within minutes of his arrival:

LaLiga @LaLigaEN

Real Madrid are laying seige to the visitors goal! 💥 #RealMadridAthletic https://t.co/rerQbwG5eL

Zidane sent on Gareth Bale and Luka Jovic in an attempt to break the deadlock but saw his team nearly undone after another break. Inigo Lekue attacked down the right and crossed for Williams who was just beaten to the ball at the far post by Dani Carvajal.

There was more frustration for Real Madrid late on when Jovic rose highest to head a Carvajal cross goalwards and saw his header beat Simon but hit the base of the post.

Real Madrid threw centre-back Sergio Ramos up front for the six minutes of stoppage time but still could not conjure a goal on a frustrating night for Los Blancos.


What's Next?

Athletic Bilbao return to La Liga action at Sevilla on Friday, January 3. Real Madrid play a day later away at Getafe.