BARCELONA, Spain ( Associated Press) – With Karim Benzema back from injury, Real Madrid are on track to win the Spanish league again after the French striker scored two penalties in a 2-1 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Benzema, who also saved another header in Vigo, missed Madrid’s 4-0 defeat to Barcelona before the international break of two weeks when he recovered from a left leg injury.
Celta took the game to the league leaders, only to be undone by some hasty defense in his area and some boundary calls by the referee. The third penalty goal scored by Benzema’s winner in the 70th minute came after a dubious foul when Ferland Mendy tripped over Kevin Vázquez’s leg. Celta also conceded a goal in the first half after a video review.
“The first two were penalty kicks, but the third was not,” Celta striker Iago Aspas said. “Mendy went full steam ahead and drove over our defender. I think it was a violation in our favor. “
Madrid opened a gap of 12 points over Sevilla and a 15-point advantage over Barcelona and Atlético Madrid.
Next, Madrid visit London on Wednesday to start their Champions League quarter-final with Chelsea.
Benzema’s prop has taken his score to 34 over all competitions, his best score since joining Madrid 13 seasons ago. His previous best was 32 in 2012. His remarkable campaign includes a hat-trick in the second half to eliminate Paris Saint-Germain of Europe’s elite tournament last month.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti missed the match after testing positive for COVID-19 this week. His son, Davide Ancelotti, took his place.
Benzema put Madrid ahead in the 19th of the spot after Madrid defender Éder Militão was defeated by Nolito.
Despite falling behind early, Celta created more goal chances than the pacemakers.
Thibaut Courtois made an excellent one-handed save to block a free kick by Aspas in the 23rd, after doing well to refuse Brais Méndez. Thiago Galhardo thought he was leveling in the 39th with a header from a pass by Nolito, but a video review revealed that Aspas intervened in an offside position with defender David Alaba’s clean-up attempt .
Celta’s insistence paid off in the 52nd when Aspas played the ball wide to Javi Galán, who put the ball back in the heart of the area for the unmarked Nolito to beat Courtois and make it 1-1.
After Celta’s Jeison Murillo tripped substitute Rodgyro in the box, Benzema’s header was saved in the 64th by Dituro, who wore a baseball cap to help keep out the glare of the setting sun.
But a few minutes later, Dituro could not stop Benzema’s third header just inside the left post.
“I do not know if we deserved to win, in the first half I had to make two big savings,” said Courtois. “There were three penalties, but I think they were imposed correctly.
“Winning today is important. Chelsea lost at home. It will be another great match. We have to make sure we play with intensity, which is something we sometimes miss, and we can not miss that on Wednesday. “
Celta forward Santi Mina has been used as a late substitute after standing trial this week for allegedly raping a woman in 2017. He denies any wrongdoing. The verdict is expected in weeks.
José Morales scored twice to lead Levante’s 2-0 win over Villarreal and breathe some life into his effort to avoid relegation. Levante left five points of safety.
Villarreal’s loss comes before Bayern Munich host the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday.
Javier Aguirre’s debut as Mallorca’s new coach ended in a 1-0 defeat at Getafe after the hosts pressed late.
Aguirre, a veteran coach with extensive experience in Spain who has twice led the national team of his native Mexico, replaced Luis García Plaza. But he could not stop the Balearic Island team from suffering a seventh consecutive defeat.
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