La Liga: Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr help Real Madrid sink Valencia
Real Madrid strike duo Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr scored a brace each to give the La Liga leaders a 4-1 home win over Valencia on Saturday, putting them back on track after last weekend’s disappointing loss to Getafe.
Benzema opened the scoring shortly before half-time from the penalty spot, his 300th goal in all competitions for Real. He is the fourth player in the club’s history to reach the milestone after Alfredo di Stefano (308), Raul (323) and Cristiano Ronaldo (450).
Fan favourite Vinicius, who missed Real’s last two games after testing positive for Covid-19, came back with a vengeance and scored twice early in the second half.
Goncalo Guedes scored Valencia’s consolation goal in the 76th minute. Benzema sealed the emphatic win two minutes from the end with a low shot from inside the box.
“It’s an honour and I’m proud to reach 301 goals with Real Madrid because they are the best club in the world,” Benzema told reporters. Real Madrid extended their lead at the top of the standings to 49 points from 21 games.
It took a while for Carlo Ancelotti’s team to warm up on a freezing winter night at the Bernabeu, where the fans are becoming used to gathering between scaffolding as Real Madrid continue the $908.72 million renovation of their home.
After a flat beginning, Real found their rhythm late in the first half as Luka Modric struck a shot that rattled the crossbar from the edge of the box. The hosts kept pressing until they found the opener after Casemiro fell inside the area when challenged by defender Omar Alderete. Benzema stepped up and rifled the ball into the top right corner beyond Jasper Cillessen.
Real kept up their pace after half-time and Vinicius scored twice in nine minutes, first after a beautiful combination with Benzema, clearing two defenders before finishing all alone in the six-yard-box. His second came from tapping in a rebound on the goal line following an effort from Marco Asensio.
Benzema’s goals meant he stayed clear at the top of the scoring charts in La Liga this season with 17, followed by Vinicius on 12.
A stunning late goal by Antonio Puertas gave Granada a shock 1-1 draw against Barcelona. Striker Luuk de Jong’s second-half header, following a perfect cross from Dani Alves, gave Barca the lead but Puertas pulled the home side level with his 89th-minute goal.
The Catalan giants were reduced to 10 players when Gavi was sent off in the 79th minute for fouling Alex Collado. “It all got very complicated after the red card,” Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets told reporters. “We managed the game well in the second half, especially after the goal, but we were too anxious.”
Barcelona centre back Eric Garcia has been ruled out for five weeks due to a hamstring injury sustained during the match, the club said on Sunday.