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Karim Benzema's One-Touch Curler Is A Gift That You Need To Unwrap

Wednesday provided more evidence of why Real Madrid has to be the favorite against PSG.

After Sevilla dropped points in a 1-1 draw with Barcelona on Tuesday, Real Madrid took advantage Wednesday with a 2-1 win over Athletic Club that included the best opening 10 minutes of the 2021-22 season. 

Real's lead at the top is now eight points (although Sevilla has a game in hand) after Karim Benzema registered a brace in the match's opening seven minutes. The opener, arriving in the fourth, was a devastating piece of unstoppable play that began, as it has so often this season for Los Blancos, in the orbit of Vinícius Júnior and Benzema on the left. 

It was Vinícius who played a cutback to Toni Kroos on the edge of the area, and the German midfielder played a one-time pass back to Benzema at the corner of the box. The Frenchman then provided a one-touch finish with some sublime swass on it. 

After an incredible light show and pre-match atmosphere inside the San Mamés, the letdown would only continue. Three minutes later, Eden Hazard's run was blunted, but Athletic's Unai Núñez played the ball back to Benzema.  

But Athletic pulled one back just three minutes later through the boy from Pamplona, 21-year-old attacking midfielder Oihan Sancet. It was another stunner ESPN FC and LaLiga didn't want you to see until the full-match highlights became available after the game.

If this was the opening 10 minutes, what would the final 80 provide?! 

Not much. I've made it a priority to watch Vini Jr. the last couple months because he's been on another planet, but this might've been his worst game of the season. And then there's Hazard, who was earning his second straight start after underwhelming against Cádiz on Sunday. He wasn't bad, but you can't fight the feeling that there's a sort of embarrassment in watching Hazard play now. 

It's like seeing a kid reach the pinnacle of high school popularity by doing things no one else would even consider — and doing them with a singular style of grace, skill and athleticism — only to quickly become the individual that's invited to parties after parents intervene and decide that Eden really needs to get out more. 

No one wants to play with him — Benzema likes drifting left to combine with Vinícius, Toni Kroos only rakes it right as a last resort and Ferland Mendy is a lot more fun on the overlap than Lucas Vázquez.  

Embed from Getty Images

Real is now off until Jan. 2, when they travel to 16th-place Getafe. 

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