Valencia 1-2 Real Madrid: Karim Benzema’s off-the-shoulder winner completes smash-and-grab win at the Mestalla to put Carlo Ancelotti’s men top of La Liga
- The first half at the Mestalla was punctuated by three subsitutions due to injury
- Hugo Duro broke the deadlock before Vinicius and Karim Benzema struck
- The win moves Real Madrid top of the table – two points above Atletico Madrid
Karim Benzema scored the winner with his shoulder two minutes from time as a Vinicius-inspired Real Madrid some how beat Valencia to stay top of La Liga.
New coach Pepe Bordalas has transformed Valencia from the meek and mild team that flirted with relegation last season to a raging bull contender this year.
They were heading to the top of the table with four minutes left on a dramatic night at Mestalla but Madrid are never beaten and after Vinicius forced a late leveller he then crossed for Benzema to nudge in the winner on 88 minutes.
Karim Benzema’s unconventional strike gave Real Madrid all three points at the Mestalla
Carlo Ancelotti’s men now sit two points ahead of second-placed city rivals Atletico Madrid
The first half was played at a brutal pace and three players had gone off injured before the 25-minute mark.
After 15 minutes Carlos Soler hobbled off with a muscle problem, replaced by 18-year-old former Arsenal midfielder Yunus Musah.
On 20 minutes Valencia were two men down when Thierry Correia strained a groin and asked to be changed.
He had gone shoulder to shoulder with Eden Hazard in his own penalty area and when both men went down it was surprise to see the Belgian first back on his feet. So often the victim of injuries in his time at Real Madrid, Hazard looked quick and strong in an impressive first half.
He produced the sublime moment of skill of the first period when, from one pass from Vinicius, he stood on the ball and spun away from Omar Alderete inside the area.
On 24 minutes Real Madrid lost Dani Carvajal to injury. Lucas came on.
Three players including Dani Carvajal were forced off inside 24 minutes through injury
A player was going off injured once every eight minutes at this rate.
Valencia then came close to opening the scoring, but when Dimitri Foulquier’s pass put Maxi clear, he went down claiming a penalty instead of trying to finish.
He had been caught on the head by a flailing arm from David Alaba, but was it enough to send him crashing to the turf or might he have tested Thibaut Courtois?
Maxi went to ground after being caught by David Alaba – but he could have gone on and scored
The referee ignored his appeals for a penalty. It was Maxi’s cross that Hugo Duro then stretched to finish from, before failing to make contact with the ball.
The savage rhythm of the game continued and the corner flag was the next victim, snapped as Alderete tried to dispossess Benzema.
More brilliance from Hazard teed up Valverde and Giorgi Mamardashvili had to save the cross before Vinicius could finish.
Eden Hazard’s impressive performance has been rarely matched since his move to Spain
Musah then shot over and another former Arsenal player, Gabriel Paulista brought down Vinicius and was yellow carded.
Courtois then came out bravely to stop Goncalo Guedes, who caught the Belgian keeper with his follow through.
Daniel Wass then set up Paulista for the best chance of the first half, but his header was too close to Courtois, who saved.
Former Real Madrid B striker Hugo Duro broke the deadlock with a sumptuous volley
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS FROM THE MESTALLA
Valencia (4-4-2): Mamardashvili 6; Correia 6 (Toni Lato 16, 7), Gabriel 6, Alderete 6, Foulquier 7; Hugo Duro 7 (Helder Costa 77, 6), Wass 7, Guillamon 7, Soler 6 (Musah 16, 8); Guedes 7 (Racic 77, 6), Maxi Gómez 6 (Marcos Andre 77, 6).
Subs not used: Cillessen, Diakhaby, Vallejo, Jason, Koindredi, Vazquez.
Goals: Duro 66
Manager: Jose Bordalas
Real Madrid (4-4-2): Courtois 7; Carvajal 6 (Lucas 25, 5), Militao 6, Alaba 7, Nacho 6; Valverde 7 (Isco 77, 6), Casemiro 6 (Rodrygo 68, 7), Modric 7 (Camavinga 68, 6), Hazard 7 (Jovic 77, 6); Benzema 7, Vinicius 8.
Subs not used: Lunin, Vallejo, Asensio, Blanco, Gutierrez, Fuidias.
Goals: Vinicius 86, Benzema 88
Booked: Casemiro, Nacho, Rodrygo, Vinicius, Camavinga
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti
Referee: Pablo Gonzalez
Four minutes into injury time of the first half, Casemiro went through Maxi and was yellow carded before Maxi recovered to fire the free-kick wide.
The pace did not slow at the restart with Courtois having to save from Duro and then watch Guedes’ shot fizz over his bar after Musah’s brilliant run and cross.
Hugo Guillamon’s shot was then held by Courtois after another slick Valencia move down the left.
Vinicius deflected effort drew Ancelotti’s side level – but Los Blancos were looking for the win
They had continued the pace of the first half and it was no more than they deserved when Duro put them in front.
Lucas allowed Foulquier’s cross to bounce off his head and it sat up invitingly for the former Real Madrid B-team striker Duro lashed it past Courtois.
Rodrygo Goes came on for Madrid and his first effort went just past the post. Madrid had tested Mamardashvili, but only with tame efforts from Benzema and Lucas that the keeper had held comfortably.
Benzema’s strike made him the league’s outright top goalscorer with six ahead of Vinicius
Carlo Ancelotti threw caution to the wind with his last wave of changes and Madrid finished with Isco and Camavinga in central midfield and pretty much everyone on the attack.
Fortune favoured the brave. First when Vinicius’ shot beat Mamardashvili after deflecting off Foulquier’s knee with four minutes left. And then when Benzema scored with his shoulder from Vinicius’ cross on the 88th minute.