MADRID - Karim Benzema scored twice to
lead Real Madrid to a comfortable 2-0 home win over lowly
Hercules in La Liga on Saturday as they rested players ahead of
next week's visit of Olympique Lyon in the Champions League.
The in-form French striker netted in the 24th minute and
doubled the lead with a superb solo effort just after the
restart, making it eight goals in his last six matches.
"We are used to looking at Cristiano Ronaldo's statistics
but Benzema has now scored 19 goals (in all competitions), which
is an important quantity," Real director general Jorge Valdano
told Spanish television.
"These numbers are proof of how good he is. He is going to
give us a lot to be happy about in the future."
Third-placed Valencia's midweek exit from the Champions
League appeared to have taken its toll as Unai Emery's side
slumped to a 4-0 defeat at struggling Real Zaragoza.
Jiri Jarosik, Ander Herrera and two penalties from Gabi sank
the visitors, who finished with 10 men, to leave them on 54
points, 16 short of Real.
Earlier, two goals from Sergio Aguero failed to earn
Atletico Madrid a win at relegation-threatened Almeria, as the
hosts twice fought back to level at 2-2.
Argentine Aguero scored from a Thiago pass just before the
break and fired in a solo goal to restore their lead in the 61st
minute after Albert Crusat had levelled for Almeria with a
Henok Goitom headed a deserved equaliser for the home side
13 minutes from time to leave Atletico seventh with 39 points.
The Hercules game had never promised to set the pulse
racing, with both sides more concerned with battles to come -
Real's in Europe and Hercules's to avoid relegation.
Real's quest to reach the Champions League quarter-finals
for the first time in seven years requires them to build on a
1-1 first-leg draw against Lyon at the Bernabeu on Wednesday,
and Mourinho's line-up reflected that.
Top scorer Ronaldo and defender Ricardo Carvalho had been
left out of the squad, the former to recover from a muscle
strain, while Pepe and Xabi Alonso started on the bench.
Hercules, La Liga's worst travellers with only six points
and three goals scored on the road, were without injured top
scorer David Trezeguet while his strike partner Nelson Valdez
only came on midway through the second half.
It did not take Real long to breach the visitors' defence,
Mesut Ozil sending Alvaro Arbeloa down the right, from where he
pulled the ball back for Benzema to sweep home the opener.
Real striker Emmanuel Adebayor hit the bar before Benzema
settled the match, dribbling into the area along the byeline
before cutting inside to fire in off the far post in the 56th.
Hercules slipped to 19th in the standings with 26 points
behind 18th-placed Almeria on goal difference.
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