Real Madrid beat Valencia but Benzema off injured

Real Madrid players celebrate their second goal scored by Real Madrid's Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Valencia CF at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on 2 February, 2023AFP

Real Madrid reduced Barcelona’s La Liga 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's French forward Karim Benzema reacts to missing a chance to score

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.

“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.

Valencia's Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista fouls Real Madrid's Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior

“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.

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.

Changing gears

Madrid stepped up several gears after the break and quickly moved in front.

Asensio broke the deadlock with a rocket from the edge of the box which ripped past the helpless Mamardashvili in the 52nd minute.

Real Madrid's Spanish midfielder Marco Asensio celebrates scoring the opening goal

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.

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.”