A late second-half double from Benzema rescued Real Madrid, who had to come from behind to win.
Zidane’s men could have been dealt a fatal blow had they lost, but to their credit, rallied to deny relegation-threatened Elche a famous point, and in the process, extended their unbeaten run to eight games.
After a two-month injury absence, Sergio Ramos was back in the starting XI for the home team as Zidane reshuffled his pack. The Madrid coach rested Luka Modric, Rodrygo, Toni Kroos and Asensio with an eye on next week’s Champions League clash against Atalanta.
But despite the changes, the line-up was strong enough to produce a result.
Madrid controlled much of the first half but were unable to muster any clear-cut chance in the opening exchanges. They had to wait till the 36th minute to carve out their first real chance of the game, which Benzema could not convert.
His miss was the only flashpoint of the first half that ended with one shot on target for both teams.
However, the second half started with more urgency as the visitors began to test Madrid. They carved out their first attempt on goal in the 59th minute, which Courtois did brilliantly to keep out.
But the keeper could do nothing about Dani Calvo’s header in the 61st minute, which came off the crossbar and into the net to hand Elche a shock lead.
Zidane responded to falling behind by making a raft of substitutions, withdrawing Ramos, Isco and Federico Valverde for Rodrygo, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
The substitutions paid off 11 minutes later as Kroos and Modric combined to release Benzema to level the scores.
With parity restored, the hosts pressed their visitors for a winner and were rewarded for their perseverance in the 91st minute as another substitute, Rodrygo chested down a simple pass for Benzema to score.
The goal was all about the French striker’s brilliance and took his goal tally to 15 La Liga goals this season. It was also the eighth season in which he has reached the landmark for Real Madrid.
This result moved Madrid within five points of leaders Atletico Madrid, who play their game in hand against Getafe later on in the day. Zidane’s men are back on Tuesday in the Champions League last-16 second leg against Atalanta, while Elche – still one point above the relegation zone – travel to Sevilla on Wednesday.
Elche are a team that defend very well and work very hard. When a rival closes you down like that it’s tough for every team. We’re the ones who have to find solutions. At the end of the first half we had chances, and when we get into the rhythm and have patience, good things come. We have to believe in ourselves more, without going crazy.Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid Manager
Karim Benzema has scored 15 LaLiga goals this season, the eighth season in which he has reached the landmark for Real Madrid. A crucial brace today to secure all three points for Real Madrid.
61' Real Madrid 0-1 Elche 73' Real Madrid 1-1 Elche 90+1' Real Madrid 2-1 Elche Karim Benzema's double saves the day in their title race!