LaLiga: Madrid thrash Valencia; Barca struggle
Vinicius and Benzema shine as Real Madrid thrash Valencia 4-1
IMAGE: Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema scores their fourth goal. Photograph: Susana Vera/Reuters
Real Madrid strike duo Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr both scored a brace to give the LaLiga 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 halftime 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 with a header on the rebound after Thibaut Courtois had saved his penalty kick.
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. “We played a great game for ourselves but also for the fans, who deserved it after the loss to Getafe.”
Real Madrid extended their lead at the top of the standings to 49 points from 21 games, eight points ahead of Sevilla who have two games in hand and host Getafe on Sunday.
It took a while for Carlo Ancelotti’s team to warm up on a freezing winter night at Santiago Bernabeu, where the fans are becoming used to gathering between scaffolding as Real Madrid continue the 800-million-euro ($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 halftime 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 LaLiga this season with 17, followed by Vinicius on 12. Together they have scored 29 of Real’s 45 league goals this campaign.
Late Puertas goal gives Granada draw against Barcelona
IMAGE: Granada’s Antonio Puertas scores. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters
A stunning late goal by Antonio Puertas gave Granada a shock 1-1 draw against Barcelona in LaLiga.
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. After Gavi was sent off it was difficult for us to control the ball.”
Barcelona are sixth in the standings with 32 points from 20 games, 14 points behind leaders Real Madrid. Granada, who are unbeaten in LaLiga since late November, are 12th with 24 points.
De Jong and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, two of the most criticised Barca players in the first half of the season, were the bright spots for the Catalans for the second consecutive league match.
The Dutch forward, who had a goal disallowed by the video referee for a close offside, almost scored minutes later with a bicycle kick for the second week in a row, while Ter Stegen made a marvellous one-handed save of a powerful, low shot from Granada’s Darwin Machis.
Alves, making his first league appearance following his return to Barca after six years, helped the team with an assist and two crucial defensive clearances.
The 38-year-old right back, who played in the 2-1 win at Linares in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, became the oldest player to feature for Barcelona in a league match, surpassing Jose Manuel Pinto by 57 days.
Barca dominated most of the game but Granada redoubled their efforts when teenager Gavi was sent off after collecting a second yellow card.
Granada pressed until Puertas was in the right place at the right time to strike, sending a left-footed shot into Ter Stegen’s top left corner.
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