Real Madrid beat Valencia to reduce Barcelona's La Liga lead
Madrid, Feb 2, 2023 (AFP) - 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.
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.
Carlo Ancelotti started with Eduardo Camavinga at left-back again and made two changes from Sunday's draw with Real Sociedad, bringing Luka Modric and Asensio in.
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 Valencia defender Gabriel Paulista 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.
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.
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 bravely 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.