Real Madrid staged a dramatic late comeback to snatch all three points in a 2-1 away win over Valencia who were the better team for much of the match.
Jose Bordalas’ side looked set to continue their early season resurgence with a victory that would have sent them to the top of La Liga, but Real Madrid rallied late on to score twice through Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior.
The two teams kicked off the match tied on points in the La Liga table with Valencia taking the game to the visitors in the early stages. However, the hosts were soon hit by injuries to Carlos Soler and Theirry Correira before Dani Carvajal also had to be withdrawn.
Gabriel Paulista and Goncalo Guedes both spurned opportunities to put Valencia ahead before Hugo Duro slammed home a bouncing ball inside the box on 66 minutes to send the Mestalla crowd wild.
Carlo Ancelotti responded by introducing Eduardo Camavinga and Rodrygo off the bench with Luka Jovic and Isco also thrown on in the latter stages, and the pressure eventually told when Vinicius had a deflected strike flash in at the near post with just four minutes left.
And Benzema completed the turnaround moments later by heading in a Vinicius cross as Real Madrid left Mestalla with a victory they barely deserved on the balance of the 90 minutes.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Leandro Cabrera scored in the 90th minute as RCD Espanyol drew 2-2 with 10-man Betis, while Real Sociedad and Sevilla FC, and Mallorca and Villarreal played out scoreless draws.
TALKING POINT - Karim Benzema-Vinicius Junior pairing is the real thing
Last season, footage was leaked of Benzema telling a teammate at half time of a Champions League game that Vinicius was playing against his own team. This season, though, the French striker and the Brazilian winger have forged a formidable partnership. It was this partnership that proved the difference for Real Madrid against Valencia and it could be the thing that keeps Ancelotti’s team competitive in this season’s La Liga title race.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)
Vinicius now has five goals in his last five games for Real Madrid with the Brazilian emerging as a genuine difference-maker for his team this season. The 21-year-old is almost unrecognisable from the player who would frequently make the wrong decision in the final third, with Vinicius adding a final product to his game. While Vinicius was quiet for much of the match, he still provided a goal and an assist to clinch three points. Once again, his contribution counted for a lot.
Vinicius Junior of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the La Liga Santander match between Valencia CF and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Mestalla on September 19, 2021 in Valencia, Spain
43’ GABRIEL HEADER... saved! That was the best opportunity of the match so far with Gabriel getting on the end of a freekick delivery into the box, but Courtois makes the reflex save!
52’ Valencia should be ahead! What an opportunity for the home side! Musah does so well to dribble to the byline and cut back the pass for Guedes, but the Portuguese fires over the top of the target!
66’ GOAL! Valencia 1-0 Real Madrid: The deadlock is finally broken and Valencia have the lead at Mestalla! Duro slams home a bouncing ball after Vazquez gets caught under a cross into the box and there was nothing Courtois could do to keep that one out of his net!
86’ GOAL! Valencia 1-1 Real Madrid: A late equaliser for Real Madrid and it has come through Vinicius! Benzema controlled a pass, played the ball out to Vinicius and the Brazilian guides a low finish in at the near post. He was, however, helped by a pretty big deflection!
89’ GOAL! Valencia 1-2 Real Madrid: What an incredible turnaround! Real Madrid have been outplayed, but they have snatched all three points at Mestalla! Vinicius played the cross into the box and Benzema got ahead of his marker, and the goalkeeper, to head home!
Vinicius Junior has scored five goals in his last five Real Madrid games, as many as in his previous 59 games before that.
Real Madrid are now unbeaten in their last 18 La Liga matches away from home, equalling their best run in the competition.