Modric strikes late as Real Madrid edge past Granada

Real Madrid moved to within four points of La Liga leaders Barcelona but needed a late Luka Modric goal to salvage a scarcely deserved 2-1 win at second-bottom Granada.

Real celebrations Modric goal
Saviour: Madrid celebrate Modric’s goal as they ended their worst winless run on the road in La Liga since 2008-09 (Picture from Sky Sports)

LUKA Modric’s stunning late strike gave Real Madrid a scarcely deserved first away win under Zinedine Zidane at second-bottom Granada.

The Croatian midfielder rifled home his first league goal of the season from 25 yards with five minutes left to get a disappointing Madrid side out of jail.

Substitute Youssef El-Arabi slotted home an equaliser for the hosts just before the hour mark after Karim Benzema opened the scoring from eight yards in the first half.

Despite the late winner, third-placed Real trail city rivals Atletico Madrid by one point and leaders Barcelona, who have a game in hand, by four points.

Zinedine Zidane on sidelines
Solid start: Zinedine Zidane has won four of his five games in charge of Madrid, scoring 19 goals and conceding three (Picture from Sky Sports)

Madrid had scored 17 goals in their previous four matches under Zidane – who replaced the sacked Rafael Benitez last month – but were largely underwhelming at Los Carmenes.

Granada remain 19th – two points adrift of safety – after a sixth defeat in seven games but will be encouraged by their spirited display having more than matched the title challengers for long periods.

The hosts – perhaps buoyed by bottom-club Levante’s positive performance in their 2-0 home defeat by Barca earlier in the day – put an unchanged Madrid side on the back foot early on.

Adalberto Penaranda – who joined Watford on deadline day from Udinese but was loaned back to Granada – had the ball in the net after 10 minutes but was ruled offside as he was ahead of the second line of defence once keeper Keylor Navas had raced out of his area to clear.

Cristiano Ronaldo looks on
Struggles: Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in just three away league games this season but has 30 La Liga goals in all (Picture from Sky Sports)

Cristiano Ronaldo – without a La Liga away goal in open play since October – went close when racing on to James Rodriguez’s cross-field pass but dragged his shot wide of the far post.

And Real opened up the Granada defence again to break the deadlock on the half-hour mark as Benzema swept home his 19th league goal of the season from Dani Carvajal’s cutback after the right-back was afforded acres of space to run in to.

Benzema goal 30 mins 0-1
Nemesis: The striker has now scored nine goals in 10 appearances against Granada, including the winner earlier this season (Picture from Sky Sports)

It was tough on the Andalusian outfit, who boast the second-worst defence in the division but were applauded off by their own fans at half-time having restricted the visitors to limited chances and – more importantly – few goals.

Jose Ramon Sandoval’s team matched their bright start to the first half following the break as David Barral’s downward header was kept out by the reflexes of Navas.

They were rewarded when El-Arabi – within 90 seconds of replacing Barral – stroked home beyond Navas despite Carvajal’s best efforts to clear off the line.

Modric, meanwhile, felt that referee Jesus Gil Manzano had impeded him in the build-up which led to Real losing possession but his complaints fell on deaf ears.

Youssef El-Arabi
Revenge: The French-born Moroccan forward had a goal controversially ruled out in Granada’s 1-0 defeat at the Bernabeu in September (Picture from Sky Sports)

El-Arabi thought he had scored again when he flicked home from close range before the linesman’s flag was raised before Isaac Success had a penalty appeal turned down after Navas blocked his route to goal with a fine intervention.

The impressive hosts pushed for a winner as much as Madrid – who sent on Jese Rodriguez and Mateo Kovacic from the bench yet struggled throughout to carve clear-cut chances.

However, a fierce Modric effort from range was superbly repelled by Andres Fernandez, who also denied Benzema one-on-one although the Frenchman should have scored when latching on to a delightful Modric through-ball.

Luka Modric goal
Sparse: Modric scored three league goals in his debut season in 2012-13 but has only scored three since (Picture from Sky Sports)

Real were indebted to man of the match Modric for firing a sublime effort into the corner past Fernandez just when it seemed that they had to settle for a point.

Granada asked questions of the Madrid defence in the closing stages but could not find a leveller as a relieved Zidane earned a first win on the road at the fourth attempt.

The three points keep alive Madrid’s title hopes, which have been fading in recent weeks.

Granada stadium
Record: Granada have lost 12 of their last 13 games against Real Madrid – including a 4-0 defeat at Los Carmenes in last season’s corresponding fixture (Picture from Sky Sports)

TEAMS:

Granada XI v Real Madrid
Familar face: Former Blackburn forward Ruben Rochina was in the Granada line-up (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  El-Arabi (on for Barral 58′), Krhin (on for Fran Rico 77′) and Doucoure (on for Penaranda 81′).

Not used:  Jesus Fernandez (GK), Biraghi, Babin, Cuenca.

Booked:  Miguel Lopes (19′), Ruben Perez (32′), El-Arabi (61′)

Goals:  El-Arabi (60′)

 

Real Madrid XI
Unchanged: Real Madrid named the same team from last Sunday’s 6-0 thrashing of Espanyol as Gareth Bale missed out again with a calf problem (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Jese (on for Rodriguez 61′), Kovacic (on for Isco 78′) and Nacho (on for Carvajal 86′).

Not used:  Casilla (GK), Arbeloa, Casemiro, Vazquez.

Booked:  Sergio Ramos (62′), Carvajal (83′)

Goals:  Benzema (30′), Modric (85′)

 

Jesus Gil Manzano referee
Control: The 32-year-old Fifa official didn’t have any major decisions to make but kept a lid on proceedings and was well up with play at all times (Picture from Sky Sports)

Referee:  Jesus Gil Manzano (Spain) – 8/10
Attendance:  22,000

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