Real Valladolid 0-2 Real Madrid: Late Benzema brace sends champions to summit

    Karim Benzema scored a late brace as Real Madrid pulled off a 2-0 victory over 10-man Real Valladolid on Friday to overtake Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

    Carlo Ancelotti’s side looked upset at the José Zorrilla Stadium in their first game since the World Cup when Benzema missed a great first-half chance.

    However, the French international, who missed Qatar 2022 due to injury, made amends by converting a penalty with seven minutes left to seal the win six minutes later.

    At Valladolid, striker Sergio Leon was sent off for dissent after Benzema awarded a penalty as Madrid did their best to get one point clear of Barça, who play at home to Espanyol on Saturday.

    Madrid’s 10th-minute penalty appeals were dismissed despite Javi Sanchez appearing to handle the line after blocking Marco Asensio’s practiced shot.

    Benzema inexplicably exploded from six yards after Jordi Masip parried a shot from Vinicius Junior before Thibault Courtois skillfully parried Alvaro Aguado before half time.

    Antonio Rüdiger lavishly headed past Toni Kroos’ corner four minutes into the second half as Real continued to struggle against trained hosts.

    Courtois then made another precise stop after headbutting Leon while Masip pushed Benzema with a low curler around the bar.

    However, Madrid’s big chance came when VAR thought Sanchez had taken a corner and Benzema shot into the bottom left corner from 12 yards after Leon was sacked for his protests to officials.

    The Madrid striker scored all three points after a selfless pass from Eduardo Camavinga allowed him to finish past Masip.

    What does this mean? Disappointing Real Madrid snatch valuable victory

    Madrid were far from their best going into the World Cup, losing to Rayo Vallecano and sharing the trophy with Girona before defeating Cadiz.

    Ancelotti’s team had similar problems but pulled off a much-needed win with a fourth consecutive La Liga win over Valladolid, who have failed to win their last 14 games against Los Blancos.

    The champions face tougher challenges and will have to improve on their initial low record in the second half of this unprecedented season as they take on Barça for the title.

    Benzema got rid of the failures at the World Cup

    Benzema was absent during France’s run to the final in Qatar, although reports suggested he was able to return after a spectacular loss to Argentina on penalties.

    The Ballon d’Or winner may have missed a great first-half chance on his return to the club, but he responded well, taking Madrid to another late win – a worthy end to their 2022 season.

    Need more from Vinicius

    Vinicius became only the second player to reach 200 dribbling attempts in Europe’s top five leagues in 2022, after Kylian Mbappe (207).

    However, his linking performance left a lot to be desired as he made just 15 passes – fewer than any Madrid starter – and his attacking partners were left without support.

    What’s next?

    Madrid will play fourth-tier side Cacereno in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey on Tuesday, the day before Valladolid faces Alaves in the same competition.

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