Real Madrid secured a 2-0 win at Real Valladolid when Karim Benzema scored two late goals, including a penalty, to put them a point ahead of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga on Friday.
Ballon d’Or winner Benzema returned to the starting XI after missing out on the World Cup for France after suffering a hamstring injury the day before the tournament started.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (USA)
– Premier League table | Upcoming appointments
Real were awarded a penalty after a handball against Javi Sanchez in the 83rd minute, which Benzema converted.
Benzema doubled Madrid’s lead in added time after an assist from substitute Eduardo Camavinga.
GO TO: Player Ratings | Best/worst performance | Highlights and Notable Moments | Quotes after the game | Key Statistics | Upcoming appointments
1. Benzema prepares for a start to prove himself again
If Real Madrid want to beat Barcelona to the LaLiga title, they need Karim Benzema in top form, something we haven’t seen this season. His performance in Valladolid on Friday was a slow-burn start to set that straight. This wasn’t the Ballon d’Or winner at his highest level – far from it – but when the final whistle blew it was his two goals that gave Madrid all three points and sent them top of the table with Barca in Saturday’s games.
After being sent home from France ahead of the start of the World Cup, it was hoped Benzema would see an extension at the Valdebebas training ground – coupled with a burning desire to remind everyone why he was named the world’s best player two months ago He finally fired from all cylinders after a stop-start, an injury met the disappointment of a season. That may have been wishful thinking and in the first half Benzema looked like a player trying to find himself. His 17th-minute shot, which went over the bar after Vinicius’ small attempt was saved by Jordi Masip, was the kind of opportunity he really should bury.
Patience with Benzema should be endless though – his sky-high performances in recent years have earned him that right – and his coolly skilful second-half penalty followed by another commanding finish six minutes later proved invaluable for Madrid the night. They will hope it is a sign of things to come.
2. Madrid are still not up to speed after the World Cup break
After a 50-day absence, it was always unlikely that Madrid would return to their best form immediately. While most teams sported Copa del Rey ties last week to warm up for LaLiga’s return, Madrid – along with fellow Supercopa contenders Barca, Real Betis and Valencia – have not had a taste of competitive football since mid-November with two friendlies behind closed doors against Leganes and Getafe are their only chances to experience anything remotely match-like conditions.
The result could be seen for much of the game against Valladolid. Yes, Madrid should have taken a penalty for defender Javi Sanchez’s handball and Benzema launched his first-half chance to take the lead over the crossbar, but the home side also had their moments, as goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois made a full effort Midfielder Alvaro prevented Aguado from making it 1-0. In the second half, Madrid created few clear chances, with Valladolid threatening just as much at the other end until the 83rd-minute penalty, converted by Benzema.
There’s plenty of room for improvement and that should come with the season, with a hectic schedule with LaLiga, Copa del Rey, Supercopa and the Club World Cup over the next two months.
3. Asensio and Ceballos are not committed to new contracts
Games like this – with team-mates Aurelien Tchouameni, Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric just back from the final stages of the World Cup – are exactly the sort of opportunities fringe players like Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio should seize if they want to convince the club to offer them new contracts, with their current contracts expiring at the end of the season.
Both players should have enough talent and experience to dominate a game like this – they would be safe starters for most teams in LaLiga – but once again they offered frustratingly little. Both were involved in Real Madrid’s first-half penalty but quickly waned and were substituted well before the end.
They need to offer a lot more to convince the club that they have something to offer beyond next summer.
Real Madrid: Thibaut Courtois 8; Dani Carvajal (6), Antonio Rudiger (7), David Alaba (6), Ferland Mendy (6); Toni Kroos (7), Dani Ceballos (6), Fede Valverde (7); Marco Asensio 6, Vinicius Junior 7, Karim Benzema
Subtitle: Rodrygo Goes 6, Lucas Vazquez 7, Eduardo Camavinga 8, Luka Modric 6, Aurelien Tchouameni 6.
Real Valladolid: Jordi Masip 8; Ivan Fresneda (7), Joaquin Fernandez (6), Javi Sanchez (5), Sergio Escudero (6); 6 Monchu, 7 Roque Mesa, 6 Alvaro Aguado; Ivan Sanchez 6, Oscar Plano 7, Sergio Leon 5.
Subtitle: Gonzalo Plata (6), Kike Perez (6), Luis Perez (6), Kenedy (6), Shon Weissman (5).
Best and worst performers
Best Player: Karim Benzema, Real Madrid.
It wasn’t his best performance, but his two goals are undeniable.
Worst performance: Javi Sanchez, Real Valladolid.
Got away with a handball in the penalty area only to give away another later. It wasn’t the best night for Real Madrid’s youth product.
Highlights and notable moments
Before the game, the teams paid tribute to Pele, who died on Monday at the age of 82.
Real Madrid honor Pelé before kick-off ❤️🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/4jo1WyzhUl
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 30, 2022
Vinicius is watching from the field at the moment while Ronaldo (majority shareholder of Real Valladolid) watches from the stands.
After the game: What the players/coaches said
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti on Karim Benzema’s game: “It will be good for him, he looked good to me before this game, we knew he would be important today. He looks very motivated and confident. In this second half of the season we will see a different Karim than in the season.” first part.”
Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibault Courtois without conceding: “The goal we conceded today was good for us. In other games you obviously want to win 3-0, but I’d rather win 3-1 or 3-2 than 0-0. It looked like a long draw today, with some good saves from both goalkeepers.”
Ancelotti on Courtois’ performance: “It was a difficult game against an opponent who came into play little by little. After the first half when we were good, Valladolid played well and it was a hard-fought game. We didn’t defend well, the team wasn’t .” compact but in this difficult situation we get away with three points, with a great game from Courtois, a great game from Benzema, so we end well an unforgettable year. We have players with different conditions and little by little we have to get them all in good condition.”
Courtois on the handball penalty decision: “It’s a bit strange, but in the end, even at the World Cup, handballs didn’t understand what handball is and what it’s not. I think that was clear, but it’s unfortunate for Javi, it’s high and he did me don’t see the ball They’re stupid penalties, but they’re penalties.
Key Statistics (provided by ESPN Stats & Information Research)
– It was Karim Benzema’s second brace of the season and the first since August 28 against Espanyol.
Real Madrid: A Copa del Rey game against fourth-tier side Cacereno on January 3 before a visit to Villarreal in LaLiga action on January 7.
Real Valladolid: Against second division side Alaves on January 4th in a Copa del Rey action and then in the league game to Mallorca on January 7th.