Karim Benzema Demonstrates His Importance to Real Madrid in Crucial Champions League Win

Ali Rampling
Benzema scored twice for Real to prevent a Champions League nightmare
Benzema scored twice for Real to prevent a Champions League nightmare / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

There have been plenty of questions asked of Real Madrid this season following their unconvincing start to the 2020/21 La Liga campaign and various slip ups in the Champions League.

They had been on the receiving end of objectively poor league results - home defeats to both Cadiz and Alaves - and there had been damning Champions League performances - losses home and away to Shakhtar Donetsk. There was pressure on Zinedine Zidane, they were teetering on the brink of being a cause for concern, but the panic button wasn't being pushed quite yet.

Zidane had been under pressure at Real
Zidane had been under pressure at Real / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Defeat or a draw against Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday evening could have spelled the end of their Champions League campaign, and would have taken Real Madrid from cause to concern to genuine, full blown, footballing disaster.

It would have been the first time in the club's history that they had failed to progress past the group stages of the competition. Real have reached the knockout phase a record breaking 23 seasons on the trot. They are synonymous with European football's most prestigious club competition.

Can you imagine Real Madrid in the Europa League?

Can you imagine Real Madrid playing Slavia Praha on a Thursday evening?

It would be like the Queen flying Ryanair.

But with Real on the cusp of a club calamity, up stepped the ever reliable Karim Benzema.

Gladbach topped the group going into Wednesday's group decider having been wonderfully, chaotically entertaining in this season's competition. They were the Champions League's joint top scorers and had been involved in an average of 4.6 goals per game - no side had been involved in more in this season's tournament.

But Gladbach thoroughly underwhelmed, with their usual attacking flair and defensive unpredictability outdone by the sheer dependability of Benzema.

The Real forward planted two near identical headers past Yann Sommer with the game barely half an hour old as the Spanish champions' uncomfortable group stage campaign concluded with a comfortable victory.

Benzema gave Real the lead after just nine minutes, hanging in the air and powering the lively Lucas Vazquez's cross into the top corner.

Benzema netted a headed brace
Benzema netted a headed brace / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

The Frenchman and Real had their second in the 31st minute. Benzema drifted unmarked into the penalty area, before producing a burst of acceleration to tear into the six yard box, avoiding the attentions of Gladbach's static centre halves Matthias Ginter and Nico Elvedi to head home Rodrygo's curling delivery.

Two smart second half saves from Sommer denied the 32-year-old a hat-trick of headers, while he showed his intelligent, unselfish side by teeing up Luka Modric for a goal that was ultimately ruled out for offside in the first period, and to send Vinicius Junior away in the final 20 minutes.

Benzema dropped deeper as the clock ticked down, demonstrating the quick feet, vision and range of passing of a seasoned deep-lying midfielder to ride a couple of Gladbach challenges and spread the play.

But it was the assuredness and simplicity of his goals that ultimately secured Real's path to the Champions League knockout stages. The goals were typically Benzema; uncomplicated, understated, vital.

Disaster averted.

In a season of inconsistencies for Real, it was Mr. Consistent who saved them.