December 06, 2021
Serbian outcast had played only 81 minutes all season but was brilliant after leaping off the bench to replace injured talisman
Jovic succeeds in being Benzema for night as Madrid leave rivals behind | Sid Lowe
Karim Benzema was down on one knee which meant Real Madrid were down on theirs, or so it goes. Saturday had been good to them until then – Barcelona had lost at home to Real Betis and Atlético Madrid had been beaten by Real Mallorca with on-loan Take Kubo slipping past Jan Oblak in the last minute at the Metropolitano – but this was bad news, its significance expressed simply. A couple of words and a couple of explanation marks would do: Benzema and off. It was cold, wet, noisy and 0-0 at Real Sociedad where no one had won and only one team had even scored, and that was because of a 90th minute mistake that left goalkeeper Alex Remiro in tears. Now the visitors’ top scorer, the man who is irreplaceable, had to be replaced.
He had lasted 15 minutes. As he went, pointing at his left leg, Benzema threw his shirt into the crowd where it was grabbed by a man it wasn’t meant for. He headed up the stairs past the glass-fronted VIP boxes built into the tunnel – “the zoo,” some call it – and turned left towards the dressing room. He took 17 goals and eight assists with him, 12 and seven in the league. When he first glanced to the bench, Carlo Ancelotti had signalled to stay calm, which he could have directed at everyone else as much as at his captain and which wasn’t easy to do. No one has more goals or assists than Benzema; the man unexpectedly taking his place didn’t have any at all. Luka Jovic hadn’t played a game’s worth of Football let alone produced a goal or an assist: 81 minutes he had been on the pitch all season. He hadn’t scored for Madrid in 664 days.
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