Real Madrid closed the gap on Barcelona at the LaLiga summit after late goals from Federico Valverde and Marco Asensio downed Osasuna 2-0 on Saturday.
Carlo Ancelotti rested Karim Benzema ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League clash at Liverpool as Madrid, also without Toni Kroos, struggled to victory at El Sadar.
Chances were limited without top scorer Benzema, but Valverde’s calm finish after 78 minutes and Asensio’s similarly cool strike 14 minutes later snatched a vital win in Madrid’s title defence.
Victory moved Los Blancos five points behind Barca ahead of Xavi’s side hosting Cadiz on Sunday.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) February 18, 2023
Sergio Herrera thwarted a glorious Vinicius Junior chance after an errant Jon Moncayola pass, while Thibaut Courtois parried away from Moi Gomez in an entertaining opening.
Valverde whistled a long-range attempt narrowly off target before Ante Budimir whipped the best first-half opportunity just wide from the edge of the area.
A resurgent Madrid twice went close to breaking the deadlock after the interval.
Rodrygo had Herrera scrambling with a curling effort that evaded the bottom-right corner and Vinicius’ cool finish was denied for offside from David Alaba’s throughball.
Osasuna responded as Gomez struck the right post with a driven effort through a crowd of Madrid defenders before Moncayalo volleyed narrowly wide with Courtois static.
Madrid finally edged in front against their mid-table opponents as Vinicius crossed for Valverde to coolly poke into the bottom-right corner, before the Brazil international saw another goal ruled out for offside.
Asensio sealed victory in the closing stages with a deadly finish past Herrera following Alvaro Rodriguez’s selfless pass.
What does it mean? Madrid keep feint title hopes alive with another Osasuna win
Madrid have enjoyed their recent visits to Osasuna, winning four of their past five LaLiga trips – they had triumphed just once in their previous six league games at El Sadar before that.
Yet another success on the road at Osasuna means Xavi’s Barca cannot afford to slip up, with a potentially title-deciding Clasico at Camp Nou coming in March.
But for now, Madrid’s attention will turn to defending their European crown at the resurgent Liverpool, who have won back-to-back games to end a poor start to 2023.
Energetic Vinicius leads the way
Vinicius was central to all of Madrid’s attacking play as the Brazil star shone in the absence of key attacker Benzema.
The winger was twice denied by offside decisions and created a team-leading three chances, including the pivotal assist from the left flank for Valverde’s opener.
Ancelotti record over Osasuna continues
Ancelotti continued his impressive managerial record against Osasuna with this victory.
The Italian has faced Osasuna eight times in all competitions without losing (W4 D4) – only against Elche (W7 D1) has he managed as many games without defeat (among LaLiga teams).
Los Blancos visit Anfield in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday, before a crucial derby at home to Atletico Madrid in LaLiga four days later.
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