Benzema's goal lifts Real Madrid over Granada in Spain
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Karim Benzema scored to help Real Madrid eke out a 1-0 win over Granada on Saturday and take the overnight lead of the Spanish league, while Fernando Torres netted one goal and set up another to lift Atletico Madrid into second place.
Granada's disciplined defense and the solid goalkeeping of Andres Fernandez held Madrid in check, while the visitors' attack matched their star-studded hosts chance for chance in an evenly-contested first half.
But Keylor Navas thwarted Granada's forward before Benzema tilted the match in Madrid's favor 10 minutes after halftime with a close-range header to put the Santiago Bernabeu crowd at ease.
Madrid has 10 points, one more than Atletico and Barcelona, which can reclaim the league lead against Levante on Sunday.
Torres and Angel Correa both went on as second-half substitutes and inspired Atletico to a 2-0 win at Eibar, leaving Diego Simeone's side ahead of Barcelona on goal difference.
Valencia drew 0-0 at home with nine-man Real Betis after Dani Ceballos saw his second booking in the 48th, as Betis held on to take points despite having a player sent off early for a second straight match.
Espanyol needed a 90th-minute header from Hernan Perez to secure a wild 3-2 win at 10-man Real Sociedad, whose Jonathas had leveled it 2-2 in the 86th. Sociedad had goalie Geronimo Rulli sent off with a direct red card for fouling Marco Asensio in the 41st.
In the capital, Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo saw his scoring run end after eight goals in his previous two matches.
But Navas, who had been seconds away from being sent to Manchester United at the close of the summer window as part of Madrid's failed transfer for David de Gea, extended the club record to a fifth consecutive clean sheet.
"I had the chance to stay where I wanted to be and I will give it my all to remain here," Navas said. "It was complicated because you know it is an awkward situation. But that is the past and I try to focus on the present, which is all that matters."
The son of the Syrian refugee tripped by a Hungarian journalist accompanied Ronaldo on the pitch before the match, receiving applause from the crowd. During that pre-game introduction, Madrid's and Granada's players wore t-shirts supporting the thousands of refugees fleeing to Europe from the Syrian war.
Madrid also invited his father Osama Abdul Mohsen and brother to the match. Osama Abdul Mohsen had arrived to the capital earlier this week after a Spanish football academy offered to help them rebuild their life.
Granada's promising performance was a surprise at Madrid, where last season it lost by the humbling score of 9-1.
Granada coach Jose Sandoval said his team had been motivated by tweets published by Madrid which had asked its supporters to guess how many goals the team would score.
"They showed a lack of respect for us, they underestimated us," Sandoval said. "I am pleased with the looseness my players showed today. If we had had some luck we could have gotten a different result."
The visitors' best opportunity came in the 20th when striker Youssef El Arabi had a goal waived off for a questionable offside call.
Navas had his turn to rush out and smother Isaac Success' effort in the 39th. Success went close in the 53rd when he chipped the ball over the bar after El Arabi set him up.
The Nigerian forward was left to rue his miss moments later when Benzema broke the deadlock by nodding in Francisco "Isco" Alarcon's cross from inside the six-yard box.
"I would have liked to have scored more goals, but you have to give credit to Granada," said Madrid coach Rafa Benitez, who is undefeated in five matches at this new club.
At Eibar, Correa scored the first ball he touched in the 62nd, deftly separating from a defender to score after Torres chased down a long ball and laid off for the Argentine. Correa returned the favor by playing Torres through for him to lift the ball over sliding 'keeper Asier Riesgo in the 77th.