Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema were the difference once again as Real Madrid beat Real Mallorca 3-0 on Monday to take full advantage of Sevilla’s latest slip-up and go 10 points clear at the top of LaLiga.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men were aiming for a fourth league win in a row and, although they rode their luck at times, Los Blancos got the job done to see their points cushion at the summit reach double figures.
Mallorca arguably created the better chances in the first half, though Vinicius was more ruthless soon after the restart, even if there was a hint of controversy around it.
It set Madrid on their way and Benzema put the game beyond Mallorca from the spot before nodding in his second of the day late on, though Ancelotti will be worried that he failed to complete the game.
Amid a busy start, Madrid were fortunate to not fall behind in the 11th minute, as Vedat Muriqi steered a close-range volley off target from Brian Olivan’s excellent cross.
They got even luckier just past the half-hour mark when Pablo Maffeo scuffed wide from 10 yards with only Thibaut Courtois to beat.
Predictably, Mallorca were made to pay.
Referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez refused to penalise Federico Valverde for tripping Iddrisu Baba just outside the hosts’ box, and Benzema fed Vinicius into the area for a straightforward finish.
Mallorca’s response was lacking and Madrid finished them off 13 minutes from time, Benzema slotting home a penalty after Vinicius was nudged over while trying to reach a pass from his partner.
Benzema added another with a well-placed header from a Marcelo cross, but he was then withdrawn with an apparent calf strain in what could be a major blow ahead of the Clasico.
8 – Karim Benzema and Vinícius Júnior have now combined for eight goals in LaLiga this season, more than any other duo in the top five European leagues in 2021/22 (7, Florian Wirtz and Patrick Schick for Bayer Leverkusen in Bundesliga). Society. pic.twitter.com/5kjEUubvoo
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 14, 2022
What does it mean? Madrid’s excellent second half sullied
Los Blancos were exceptional at times after the break, as they both tightened up at the back and took their chances going forward.
But all of the post-match focus now will be on the condition of Benzema. The striker appeared to wince just after heading in his second goal and Ancelotti did not react quickly enough.
When he sat down on the turf a few minutes later clutching his calf, the exasperated reaction of Luka Modric towards Ancelotti said it all – with El Clasico and the Champions League quarter-finals to come, Benzema could quite feasibly have been brought off as soon as he converted that penalty.
This was another very impressive outing for Vinicius, who was at the heart of almost everything positive about Madrid. Of their 10 non-penalty shots, the Brazilian was involved in all but three of them, having two of his own and setting up five. He got the first goal and won the penalty for the second – you cannot ask for much more that.
Muriqi’s frustrating day
It was always going to be a gruelling task for Muriqi leading the line against Madrid. To his credit, he was fairly effective and his five shots was the most of anyone on the pitch. However, none of them were on target – with three blocked – and one was a poor early miss.
Key Opta Facts
– Real Madrid have failed to score in the first half in six of their past seven LaLiga games, as many as in their previous 16 games in the competition. In fact, they failed to score in their previous four away league games, their worst run on the road without scoring in the first 45 minutes since April 2019 (also four).
– Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr have been involved in 18 of the past 22 Real Madrid goals in LaLiga: 10 goals and four assists for the France striker and four goals and four assists for the Brazilian.
– Vinicius is the first Brazilian player to score 14 goals in a single LaLiga season since Charles in 2018-19 (also 14). The last Brazilian to do so for Real Madrid was Ronaldo in 2005-06 (14).
– Benzema has scored 32 goals this season in all competitions, his joint-highest tally for Real Madrid in a single campaign (32 in 2011-12). He also equalled his best season in LaLiga in terms of assists (11, as in 2012-13).
It is the small matter of El Clasico on Sunday for Madrid as they host Barcelona. Mallorca go to Espanyol earlier the same day
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