Karim Benzema scores twice as Real Madrid defeat Valencia 3-0 to keep pace with Barcelona in title race

Karim Benzema of Real Madrid celebrates a goal during the spanish league, Liga Santander, football match played between Real Madrid and Valencia CF at Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium on June 18, 2020 in Valdebebas, Madrid, Spain.

Karim Benzema scored twice and Marco Asensio added another on his return from a 10-month injury layoff as Real Madrid beat Valencia 3-0 on Thursday to keep pace with leader Barcelona in the Spanish league.

The home win left Madrid two points behind Barcelona, which defeated Leganes 2-0 on Tuesday for its second straight win after the pandemic break.

Madrid took control of the match after a lackluster first half in which Valencia had the most significant scoring chances and a goal disallowed by video review.

Benzema opened the scoring in the 61st minute after a pass by Eden Hazard, who again was decisive for Madrid in his second match after a long injury layoff.

Asensio, making his first appearance since a serious knee injury last year, scored with his first touch about 30 seconds after entering the match in the 74th.

“That’s the way to come back,” his teammates could be heard saying during the goal celebration at the empty Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium.

“I couldn’t wait to come back after so many months of hard work,” said Asensio, who was injured in a friendly last July. “I’m glad that I’m back and that I was able to score."

Asensio also set up Benzema's third goal with a one-touch cross on a counterattack and the French striker finished off the move sublimely — using his right foot to flick the ball away from a defender and then his left to hammer it into the top of the net. It was the Frenchman's 16th league goal to leave him five behind scoring leader Lionel Messi. 

It was the fifth double this season for Benzema, who passed Ferenc Puskas to become Madrid's fifth leading scorer all-time.

Valencia went a man down in the 89th after a straight red card was shown to South Korean midfielder Lee Kang-in for a foul on Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. A few moments later, midfielder Francis Coquelin had to leave injured after the team had already made all five substitutions.

Valencia was winless after the break and dropped to eighth place.

Meanwhile, Real Sociedad failed to regain fourth place after a 2-0 loss at Alaves in which it couldn’t get a single shot on target.

Borja Sainz opened the scoring with a goal awarded following video review in the 56th, and Martin Aguirregabiria sealed the victory deep in stoppage time at the Mendizorroza Stadium.

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