Real Madrid were frustrated at San Mames where Athletic Bilbao held them to a 0-0 draw on Saturday night. The result means that they remain 8 points behind Barcelona in La Liga, after Celta Vigo had secured a point following a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou. The irritation at not being able to find a breakthrough took it’s toll on Los Blancos skipper Sergio Ramos who was sent off for a second bookable offence in the dying moments.
As expected Real Madrid had most of the ball but they didn’t make adequate use of their possession advantage. Athletic Bilbao defended resolutely and made it hard for the visitors to fashion any meaningful chances. Real had nineteen shots to Bilbao’s eleven but only four of those efforts found the mark. Rumoured Real Madrid transfer target Kepa Arrizabalaga was on hand to thwart his potential suitors, pulling off some brilliant saves.
Both Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo have been back among the goals lately and they both hit the woodwork. First Benzema struck the upright before Ronaldo had the best chance of the game with a beautifully struck volley that eventually had Arrizabalaga beaten but clipped the post and went wide.
As the game wore on, Real Madrid began to look more and more desperate with Toni Kroos and Marcelo resorting to hopeful crosses that were often wayward and wasteful. The flashpoint came in the 86th minute when Ramos who had already been booked for a foul on Raul Garcia, brought down Aritz Aduriz. The referee was in no doubt and promptly gave Ramos his marching orders, the nineteenth time he has seen red in La Liga.
With a numerical advantage the hosts came to life and the game was flipped on it’s head. Having had their backs to the wall for most of the match Bilbao began to ask questions of their more illustrious visitors. It was all hands to the pump defensively, as even Ronaldo and Benzema stacked up behind the ball to ensure that they came away with at least a point. At the final whistle the disappointment among players and fans was obvious; Real Madrid have let Barcelona off the hook.