Benzema draws level with Raúl as Madrid’s 2nd-highest scorer | Soccer

MADRID (AP) – Karim Benzema continues to put his name in Real Madrid’s record books, scoring his 323rd goal on Thursday to level with Raúl González as the club’s second-highest goalscorer behind Cristiano Ronaldo.

Benzema scored the net in the first half of the team’s 6-0 win against bottom side Levante in the Spanish league after Madrid clinched the title a few rounds ago.

The result sealed Levante’s relegation after five consecutive years in the top division.

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

Benzema is now 128 goals behind Ronaldo’s 451, who played for the club until 2018. Raúl, the manager of Madrid’s ‘B’ squad, played for the club in the 1990s and 2000s.

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

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

He could have scored another goal on Thursday but unselfishly fed Vinícius for the team’s fifth time after clearing the keeper in the penalty area.

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

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

Benzema was replaced in the 75th along with Luka Modric, who assisted three of Madrid’s goals.

Benzema, Modric, Mendy, Vinícius and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois all failed to start in Sunday’s league derby against city rivals Atlético Madrid, a game Atlético won 1-0 at home.

Atlético did not provide Madrid with a guard of honor for the league champions at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, but Levante’s players did on Thursday, lining up on the sidelines and applauding the Madrid players as they took the field at the Santiago Bernabéu entered the stadium.

Valencia’s Levante have been in the top division for 14 of the last 18 seasons.

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

SOCIETY IN EUROPE

Real Sociedad defeated Cádiz 3-0 to secure their third straight European berth.

Alexander Sorloth, Adnan Januzaj and Portu all scored for the Basque country club, who will play in either the second-tier Europa League or the third-tier Conference League.

Sociedad are sixth, 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 either Sociedad, Villarreal or Athletic Bilbao.

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

Cádiz, who were aiming for their second win in a row, saw their chances of staying alive dwindle with the away defeat. The last two rounds are two points behind the relegation zone.

VILLARREAL KEEPS FIGHTING

Villarreal moved closer to their own place in Europe with a 5-1 win at Rayo Vallecano.

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

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


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