Madrid: Karim Benzema fired Real Madrid to a 1-0 win in the city derby against Atletico Madrid on Saturday which underlined Real’s La Liga title credentials.
The French forward side-footed home a cross from compatriot Ferland Mendy to break the deadlock in a tight game in the 56th minute after coach Zinedine Zidane had sprung a double substitution to give his team more width.
Zidane had begun the match with a compact narrow formation containing five midfielders but after failing to break down Atletico he hauled off Toni Kroos and Isco at the start of the second half for natural wingers Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius Jr.
Atletico rarely looked like troubling a Real defence that have only conceded 13 goals in 22 league games this season, although they had a strong penalty appeal turned down when Casemiro sent Morata to the ground in the first half.
Benzema’s strike gave Real their first home victory over Atletico in the league since 2012 and increased their lead over Barcelona at the top of the table to six points. Barca can reduce the margin to three if they beat Levante on Sunday.
Morata’s injury swelled Atletico’s list of injured players to seven, less than three weeks before they are due to host holders Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League.
The defeat piled further pressure on coach Diego Simeone, who has failed to win any of his last five games and is enduring his worst spell since taking charge of the club in December 2011.