Karim Benzema bagged a brace as Real Madrid held on for a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo to leapfrog Barcelona into second place in the La Liga table.
Having only just returned from a spell on the sidelines, there was no sign of Sergio Ramos in the starting lineup with Casemiro back after missing the midweek win over Atalanta due to suspension.
It took Real Madrid 20 minutes to break the deadlock with Toni Kroos threading a perfect pass for Benzema to finish into the far corner of the net, extending his scoring run to six straight matches.
Benzema strike sees Real go seven points clear
And the French forward doubled his tally just 10 minutes later as Celta Vigo gave up the ball on the edge of their own area, giving goalkeeper Ivan Villar no chance of stopping Benzema’s shot.
Real Madrid looked to be cruising, but Celta Vigo gave themselves a lifeline when Santi Mina got on the end of a Denis Suarez set piece delivery to guide a header past Thibaut Courtois.
Celta Vigo pressed hard for an equaliser in the second half as Real Madrid tired after their Champions League efforts during the week, with Iago Aspas striking the post from a freekick
But it was Zinedine Zidane’s side who scored again in stoppage time, with Benzema capping an impressive display with a cross for Marco Asensio who converted from close range. This result sees Real Madrid narrow the gap on Atletico Madrid in top spot to just three points.
TALKING POINT - Zinedine Zidane’s lack of faith in his squad exposed
Real Madrid looked to be cruising to three points after going 2-0 up, but they finished the match holding on, only scoring a third due to the numbers Celta Vigo were sending forward. The visitors clearly needed fresh energy off the bench in the second half after their Champions League efforts during the week, but Zidane only used one of his substitutions. This exposed his lack of faith in his squad options.
Zinedine Zidane, Head Coach of Real Madrid talks to Luka Modric during the La Liga Santander match between RC Celta and Real Madrid
Image credit: Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH - Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Benzema is currently on one of the best scoring runs of his career and the French forward was the biggest difference between the two teams here. He was clinical in front of goal in the first half, scoring twice before assisting Asensio for the goal that finally settled the contest in stoppage time. In this form, there aren’t many centre forwards better than the 33-year-old.
Celta Vigo - Villar 7, Mallo 6, Araujo 5, Murillo 5, Martin 5, Tapia 4, Mendez 6, Suarez 7, Nolito 5, Aspas 7, Mina 8. Subs - Beltran 5, Solari 7, Fontan 5, Ferreyra 4.
Real Madrid - Courtois 6, Mendy 5, Nacho 6, Varane 6, Vazquez 7, Casemiro 7, Valverde 6, Kroos 8, Modric 7, Vinicius 7, Benzema 9. Subs - Asensio 6.
20’ GOAL! Celta Vigo 0-1 Real Madrid: There's the first goal and Benzema's scoring run continues! Kroos picked the pass through the Celta Vigo defence, the French forward controlled it instantly and guided a side-footed effort into the far corner of the net! What a finish!
30’ GOAL! Celta Vigo 0-2 Real Madrid: Oh dear, Celta. They give up the ball on the edge of their own penalty box, Kroos prods the ball through to Benzema and the Frenchman makes no mistake in finishing past Villar. Real Madrid are two goals to the good and cruising here!
40’ GOAL! Celta Vigo 1-2 Real Madrid: Celta Vigo have given themselves a lifeline in this match! Denis creates some chaos in the Real Madrid penalty area with a freekick delivery, Mina was unmarked and guided a header into the far corner of the net! Courtois couldn't get there!
84’ Aspas off the post! Inches away from being an equaliser for Celta Vigo, but Aspas' freekick takes a tiny touch off Casemiro in the wall and bounces off the outside of Courtois' post!
90+3’ GOAL! Celta Vigo 1-3 Real Madrid: Job done for Real Madrid as Benzema caps an impressive performance by racing up the pitch and squaring for Asensio who has the simple task of finishing into the back of the empty net from close range. Three points in the bag.
Between them Toni Kroos and Luka Modric have assisted 11 of Real Madrid’s last 20 goals in all competitions.
Karim Benzema has now found the back of the net in each of his last six games in all competitions for Real Madrid, his best scoring run since February 2016.
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