Benzema equalizes with Raúl as Madrid’s 2nd top scorer





Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, right, scores his team’s second goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Levante at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on Thursday, May 12, 2022. (AP Photo/ Manu Fernandez)

MADRID (AP) — Karim Benzema continues to add his name to Real Madrid’s record books, scoring his 323rd goal on Thursday to equalize Raúl González as the club’s second top scorer behind Cristiano Ronaldo.

Benzema scored in the first half of the team’s 6-0 loss to bottom-placed Levante in the Spanish league, as Madrid won the title a few rounds ago.

The result sealed Levante’s relegation after five straight years in the top flight.

Vinícius Júnior, Benzema’s trusted attacking partner all season, scored a hat-trick for Madrid as they continue to prepare for the Champions League final against Liverpool in Paris on May 28, when he will try to win a record 14th European title.

Benzema is now 128 goals short of 451 scored by Ronaldo, who played at the club until 2018. Madrid ‘B’ team coach Raúl played for the club in the 1990s and 2000s.

Benzema’s 19th-minute close-range header from a Vinícius cross gave the French forward his league-leading 27th goal, nine more than any other player in the competition this season. He’s scored more than a third of Madrid’s 79 league goals so far.

It was the 20th goal in the last 15 matches in all competitions for Benzema, who played a key role in the team’s run to the Champions League final, scoring decisive goals in every knockout round of the tournament European – including two hat-tricks.

He could have added another goal on Thursday but generously gave Vinícius the ball for the team’s fifth after clearing the goalkeeper inside the box.


Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior celebrates after scoring his team's sixth goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Levante at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on Thursday, May 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior celebrates after scoring his team’s sixth goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Levante at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on Thursday, May 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

“The connection with Benzema has been very good throughout the season,” said Vinícius, who is now the league’s third top scorer with 17 goals. “Karim has had a great season and I hope he can end it by winning the Ballon d’Or (best player award).”

Vinícius had scored his first goal in the first half before closing the scoring in the dying minutes for his first hat-trick for Madrid. Ferland Mendy and Rodrygo scored their goals before halftime.

Benzema was replaced in the 75th minute with Luka Modric, who netted three Madrid goals.

Benzema, Modric, Mendy, Vinícius and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois did not start the league derby against city rivals Atlético Madrid on Sunday, a game Atlético won 1-0 at home.

Atlético didn’t give Madrid a guard of honor for the league champions at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, but Levante players did on Thursday, lining up on the touchline and cheering on Madrid players when they entered the pitch at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium.

Valencia-based Levante have played in the Premier League in 14 of the last 18 seasons.

“Unfortunately we haven’t been up to it this season,” Levante captain José Luis Morales said amid tears. “We have to apologize and try to get this club back to where it deserves next season.”

SOCIETY IN EUROPE

Real Sociedad beat Cadiz 3-0 to secure a place in European competition for the third consecutive season.

Alexander Sorloth, Adnan Januzaj and Portu each scored a goal for the Basque Country club, which will play in either the second-tier Europa League or the third-tier Conference League.

Sociedad are in sixth place, two points behind Real Betis and three points ahead of Villarreal. Betis have already secured a Europa League spot by winning the Copa del Rey, so Spain’s second spot in the competition will go to Sociedad, Villarreal or Athletic Bilbao.

The win ended Sociedad’s four-game winless streak in the league.

Cadiz, who were aiming for their second straight win, saw their chances of escaping relegation dwindle with the away defeat. He will go in the last two rounds two points outside the relegation zone.

VILLARREAL CONTINUES TO FIGHT

Villarreal came close to securing their own European place with a 5-1 rout at Rayo Vallecano.

Alfonso Pedraza scored twice and Juan Foyth, Paco Alcácer and Pau Torres added a goal each for Villarreal, who were knocked out by Liverpool in this season’s Champions League semi-finals.

Villarreal are four points clear of Athletic, who lost 1-0 at Granada on Tuesday.

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Christy J. Olson