LaLiga: Real Madrid beat Valencia to keep pace with Barcelona; Karim Benzema off injured
Real Madrid stay within five points of LaLiga leaders Barcelona at halfway stage in the LaLiga season.
Madrid: Real Madrid reduced Barcelona’s LaLiga lead to five points with a 2-0 win over Valencia on Thursday, thanks to spectacular goals from Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior.
The duo struck in a three-minute second half salvo which stunned the visitors at the Santiago Bernabeu, and Valencia were later reduced to 10 men when Gabriel Paulista took a wild hack at Vinicius.
Madrid dominated throughout but an otherwise good night was tainted when captain Karim Benzema went off injured in the second half with an apparent thigh problem, and Eder Militao was also replaced for a similar reason.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed Benzema’s injury was “very light” but that Militao would miss Sunday’s trip to face Real Mallorca.
The game will likely be remembered for Gabriel’s red card tackle on Vinicius, who netted his 50th goal for Madrid on his 200th appearance at 22 years old.
— صحيفة الماركا اسوء صحيفة (@hghgfty2) February 2, 2023
“We have to protect Vinicius a bit, he’s a very expressive kid, he dribbles a lot and defences don’t like that,” Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told DAZN.
“We need that Vini. In a lot of games he’s been kicked a lot. I am happy that the referee had the bravery to send off Paulista.
“Not just because it’s Vini — if we did that then we would have to be sent off too.”
Valencia’s interim coach Voro, taking over for the eighth time on a temporary basis after Gennaro Gattuso departed by mutual consent on Monday, had a tough night visiting the reigning champions.
Los Che sit 14th, just one point clear of the relegation zone, and will now be without experienced defender Gabriel.
“We had a good first half, that was our plan, leaving them little space, but in the second it was harder for us,” Valencia’s Hugo Guillamon told DAZN.
Ancelotti started with Eduardo Camavinga at left-back again and made two changes from Sunday’s draw with Real Sociedad, bringing in Luka Modric and Asensio.
The duo combined after three minutes with the Croatian playmaker feeding the forward, who should have scored, but Valencia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili made a fine save down to his right.
— Footballclips (@footyclipss) February 2, 2023
Asensio was denied again after a brilliant Benzema backheel set him up, with Gabriel throwing himself in the way of the Spaniard’s shot and deflecting it over.
Vinicius sent a tame effort at Mamardashvili, while Camavinga rifled into the side netting as Madrid monopolised the chances but failed to break through.
Antonio Rudiger headed home from a corner in stoppage time but the goal was ruled out by VAR after a push from Benzema in the face of Yunus Musah was spotted.
Madrid stepped up several gears after the break and quickly moved in front.
— VídeosRMadridUniido (@VideosRMUniido) February 2, 2023
Asensio broke the deadlock with a rocket from the edge of the box which ripped past the helpless Mamardashvili in the 52nd minute.
🇧🇷 Vinicius Junior for Real Madrid:
👤 200 games.
⚽️ 49 goals.
🤝 49 assists.
🏆 7 trophies.
⭐️ Franchise player. pic.twitter.com/K6zqgBWFcv
— Madrid Zone (@theMadridZone) February 2, 2023
Two minutes later Vinicius doubled their lead, with Benzema sending him sprinting through on the halfway line, outpacing the defence and tucking home.
Benzema had a chance to score the third but his effort was blocked by Mouctar Diakhaby, before the Frenchman limped off holding the back of his thigh.
69 – Vinícius Júnior is the most fouled player in La Liga this season, winning 69 fouls. Targeted. pic.twitter.com/vAqXuNLCtd
— OptaJoao (@OptaJoao) February 2, 2023
Gabriel was dismissed for his hack at Vinicius as the former Arsenal defender lost his head when his Brazilian compatriot flew past him.
Madrid kept theirs to secure the three points and stay five points behind Barcelona at the halfway point of the season.
Ancelotti played down the clash between Gabriel and Vinicius.
“(They) had clashed very few times in the game, I think it was just the frustration, they were losing,” Ancelotti told reporters.
“I can understand it. It’s a bit of an ugly tackle, but Gabriel Paulista has always behaved well.
“Sometimes the frustration doesn’t let you think in the right way.”
Benzema injury “very light”: Ancelotti
Benzema, 35, was taken off after 60 minutes holding the back of his thigh.
“Karim’s seems something very light, but this is what happens when you play every three days and there is no time to recover,” Ancelotti told DAZN.
The coach had complained about the intense football calendar ahead of the game, with Madrid heading to Morocco next week to play in the Club World Cup, while still in the Champions League and Copa del Rey.
Benzema missed France’s World Cup campaign injured and had also suffered various problems in the first half of the season, missing nine Madrid games.
Real Madrid currently have defenders Ferland Mendy, David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez out injured, while Aurelien Tchouameni returned as a substitute against Valencia after a calf problem.
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