Real Madrid head into the international break having given themselves an opportunity of resuming La Liga in April in second place. That was after the defending champions beat Celta Vigo 3-1 at Estadio Balaidos, courtesy of a brace and an assist from the ever-inspiring Karim Benzema.
It was an impressive start from the visitors, who didn’t show any signs of tiredness from their midweek exploits against Atalanta. Vinicius Junior retained his spot in Zinedine Zidane’s 4-4-2 alongside Benzema, and almost produced something out of nothing five minutes in. Federico Valverde’s long ball was off-target, but the Brazilian chased it down and beat goalkeeper Ivan Villar to the ball at the right corner of his box, but Vini’s touch to put him into space was heavy and he couldn’t have an attempt at goal.
A solid opening 20 minutes from Madrid, who played through the Celta press exceedingly well, earned them a reward. Toni Kroos the architect behind it, he dribbled past a few men, before piercing the Celta defensive line, for Benzema to take a touch and finish on the rotation.
At the half-hour mark, it was two. Kroos again involved, this time he robbed Renato Tapia at the edge of the Celta box to dispossess him, Benzema was there to pick up the loose bits, to score his second. Towards the end of the half, the hosts were getting braver, as Madrid visibly looked tired. Iago Aspas created a nice chance for Santa Mina, who’s creative back-flick finish, goes well wide of the target.
But they did profit from Madrid falling asleep late in the half. A free-kick from Denis Suarez after a cheap give-away, had Mina at the end of the delivery who’s lovely header brought the hosts back. And that positive ending to the half continued well into the second. Madrid all of a sudden weren’t first to the second balls, weren’t closing down fast enough, and their passing wasn’t quick enough either.
Just after an hour, Brais Méndez teed up Aspas, who’s shot was heading in but for Thibaut Courtois. At this stage, Madrid were hoping for something on the counter, and Vinicius was the main point of influence in that regard. The 20-year old beat two Celta players and dribbled into the box, but his cut-back was frustratingly behind Benzema, a part of his game which he really needs to fine-tune.
Pushing high-up when Celta’s defenders were in possession produced a gift for Benzema, who could have sealed it. Néstor Araujo gave a sloppy pass away, but Benzema’s shot was fairly easily saved. Then came the moment where Celta thought they had earned a point.
Aspas with a free-kick at the edge of the Madrid box, but his attempt that was definitely heading in and had beaten Courtois, took a deflection off Casemiro’s head in the wall and went onto strike the post. They had to suffer, and put everything on the line as Celta through lots at the visitors, but Madrid held firm and then managed to score a third on the counter. Benzema crossed to Asensio who slotted it into an empty net for Real’s third, as they temporarily move into second place in the standings.
Up next for Real Madrid?
Who? Eibar CF
When? Saturday 3rd April @ 16:15
Where? Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano