Real Madrid returned from San Mames with a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao and extended their lead at the top of the table to eight points.
Los Blancos were without seven of their regular players in their disappointing 0-0 draw against Cadiz, and they lost two more before this match.
David Alaba tested positive for Covid and Casemiro was serving a one-match suspension for receiving his fifth yellow card of the season.
Carlo Ancelotti named Eduardo Camavinga and Nacho in the starting XI as their replacements.
Despite missing so many important players, Madrid took only four minutes to get the lead.
Benzema on fire
Karim Benzema, who has become the ultimate scoring source for Real Madrid over the past few seasons, bagged his 400th career goal as he pounced in a Toni Kroos pass.
Only three minutes later, the Frenchman made the most out of a Bilbao defensive error and doubled the visiting side’s lead.
Thanks to his instinctive center forward play, Benzema was able to beat the Bilbao offside trap and find Julen Agirrezabala in a one-one situation.
The Real Madrid number nine made no mistake to send the ball into the back of the net and make it 2-0 before the clock hit the 10 minute mark.
At that stage, it seemed evident that the visitors are going to run riot at San Mames. But, the hosts struck back soon and made the game wide open.
Bilbao pull one back
Thibaut Courtois could do little to keep out Oihan Sancet’s 10th minute strike that float into the Madrid net and cut the deficit by half.
Both teams came close to scoring the next goal in the following minutes, but none of them could add to their tally, leaving the scoreline unchanged after the final whistle.
Eden Hazard would regret not being able to seal the game for Madrid nine minutes from time, when he raced into the Bilbao box to expose Julen Agirrezabala.
But, the keeper did well to stand firm and deny the Belgian.
Good day for Hazard
Hazard, however, would be delighted with the display he produced at San Mames.
He backed up his lackluster performance against Cadiz with a solid attacking outing much reminiscent to his Chelsea days.
After staying out of the Madrid XI for three months, he will be hoping to stake a claim for a first team spot.
Madrid are now eight points clear of second placed Sevilla, who have a game in hand. Bilbao, on the other hand, are 10th in the table, but they will fall further behind if Espanyol, Granada, and Osasuna win their respective games.