MADRID (Reuters) – A late goal from Karim Benzema rescued a 1-0 win for Real Madrid at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday and allowed the LaLiga leaders to extend their advantage at the top of the standings.
They are now nine points clear of second-placed Sevilla, who will play third-placed Real Betis on Sunday.
Real Madrid looked slow and disjointed at Vallecas and were almost held to a goalless draw until Benzema and Vinicius Jr, Real Madrid’s top two scorers this season, worked their magic seven minutes from time.
The French striker found Vinicius with a brilliant through pass and ran into space to receive the ball back and finish from close range with a single touch, scoring his 19th league goal of the season.
LaLiga top scorer Benzema and Vinicius have now between them scored 32 of the team’s 52 goals this season.
Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois made two magnificent saves in the second half, keeping out a bullet header from Mario Suarez and a close-range shot from Alvaro Garcia.
“It was a complicated game mostly due to the field being in very poor condition,” Courtois told reporters referring to the pitch were large sections were threadbare.
“I don’t think it’s good for LaLiga’s image to play in a field like this… It’s far from ideal. Good for us that Benzema and Vinicius are in-form. After four years together they reached a level of connection that is incredible.”
Rayo players were also far from happy when referee Isidro Diaz de Mera failed to send off midfielder Casemiro despite a studs-up challenge on Oscar Valentin. The incident was reviewed but VAR allowed the yellow card shown by the referee to stand.
(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)