Late Benzema double sends Real Madrid top

Karim Benzema of Real Madrid CF celebrates after scoring his team's second goalduring the LaLiga Santander match between Real Valladolid CF and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Municipal Jose Zorrilla on December 30, 2022 in Valladolid, Spain.

Karim Benzema has scored a late double to hand Real Madrid a 2-0 win at Real Valladolid and move them a point clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

Ballon d’Or winner Benzema returned to the starting lineup after missing the World Cup for France having suffered a thigh injury the day before the start of the tournament.

Both teams had several chances to open the scoring in the first half but superb goalkeeping from Valladolid’s Jordi Masip and Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois kept the game goalless at the break.

As the game entered its closing stages, Real Madrid were awarded a penalty in the 83rd minute after a handball against Javi Sanchez.

The decision sent the home team into a frenzy, with striker Sergio Leon sent off for dissent before Benzema converted the penalty with ease.

A minute before the end of regulation time, the unmarked Benzema doubled the visitors’ lead with a well-placed shot inside from the box after an assist from substitute Eduardo Camavinga.

“Benzema played very well given that he had barely played in the last three months,” Madrid keeper Courtois said.

“Maybe he was lacking a bit of pace. I bet the Karim of last year would have scored even more goals, but it is good for him to get this double.”

Before kick-off, a moment of silence was held in memory of Brazil great Pele, who died on Thursday.

Ronaldo, the former Brazil and Madrid star and the current owner of Valladolid, stood alongside Real Madrid president Florentino Perez in the stands during the tribute.

Barcelona – a point behind Madrid in second place – host Espanyol on Saturday.

Fellow strugglers Celta Vigo and Sevilla shared a 1-1 draw, while a late Lucas Perez strike earned Cadiz the same result at home to Almeria.

In Friday’s early game, Borja Mayoral scored twice for Getafe as they moved up to 14th in La Liga with a 2-0 win over Mallorca.

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