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Varane pushes Real Madrid past Huesca

Raphael Varane scored a pair of second half goals to lead Real Madrid to a 2-1 victory against Huesca on a soggy Saturday afternoon at the Estadio El Alcoraz.

Huesca took an early lead in the second stanza and were inches away from making it a two-goal advantage, but Real Madrid responded like a champion thanks to scores from the unlikely Varane. Also chipping in were Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos with excellent outings, the former somehow not finding the scoresheet due to the heroics of Huesca goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez.

With so many absences due to injury and suspension, including centre-back Sergio Ramos and forward Eden Hazard, and just 17 players named to the matchday squad, Zinedine Zidane’s choices of a starting XI were fairly limited. Alvaro Odriozola got another start at right-back, Nacho and Varane were the centre-back pairing, while up top Vinicius and Marco Asensio joined Benzema in attack.

Real Madrid opened in strong fashion and were getting to Huesca’s defensive end with hardly any problems, but their passing in the final third was imprecise and it spoiled several good chances. They kept poking and prodding away and a slick move from Luka Modric set up Benzema, whose right-footed curler forced a big save from Alvaro Fernandez.

After a rather sleepy first 45 minutes, things picked up in the second stanza starting with Mikel Rico striking the crossbar right after the re-start. It would prove to be a harbinger of things to come, as moments later Javi Galan broke the deadlock and gave the hosts a 1-0 lead by settling a pass and hammering a left-footer that went blazing past Thibaut Coiurtois and into net.

That was then followed by Rafa Mir firing off the crossbar and it appeared that Huesca were going to run all over Los Blancos, but Zidane’s men would respond when Benzema hit the crossbar from a freekick and Varane reacted first and nodded the rebound into net to level things at 1-1.

The match had opened up and was being played with a back-and-forth fervour that almost yielded a second Huesca goal through Rafa Mir, whose header produced a stretch save from Courtois.

Alvaro Fernandez was just as good at the other end when some exquisite touch passing in small spaces set up Benzema, however the Frenchman’s effort was blocked.

Benzema could then only stare in dismay when he didn’t score after Asensio nodded down a header to him and he unleashed a right-footed rocket from just a few metres out. The only problem for the striker was that it hit Alvaro Fernandez square in the chest to deny the visitors a second score.

Zidane then went back to his bench, after having previously replaced the injured Odriozola with Marcelo, and swapped on his two of his last three remaining field players, with Mariano and youngster Marvin Park on for Mendy and Vinicius.

The stars were aligned against Benzema scoring on the day, but not countryman Varane and of all people it was the French centre-back who tallied his second of the day to hand Real Madrid a late advantage. Kroos flighted in a freekick that was headed down by Casemiro and deflected off the fingers of Alvaro Fernandez before falling into the path of Varane, who finished from a few yards out for the goal.

Real Madrid would see things out from there to pocket a big three points ahead of their quick turnaround on Wednesday against Getafe.

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