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La Liga: Benzema gives Madrid win over Rayo amid boos

December 16, 2018 09:39 IST

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates on scoring against Rayo Vallecano during the La Liga match at Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid on Saturday

IMAGE: Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates on scoring against Rayo Vallecano during the La Liga match at Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid on Saturday. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

Real Madrid got a 1-0 win over minnows Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, earning a third consecutive La Liga victory and rising to third in the table, but they again failed to sparkle and had to endure booing from their unhappy supporters.

Karim Benzema beat a poorly constructed Rayo offside trap to score the only goal of the game in the 13th minute and Toni Kroos came close to doubling Madrid's advantage later in the first half when he struck a post from outside the box.

 

The win put Santiago Solari's side up to third place in the standings on 29 points, one clear of fourth-placed Sevilla who host Girona on Sunday and two behind champions and leaders Barcelona, who visit Levante, and Atletico Madrid.

Madrid, who were also booed off on Wednesday after losing 3-0 to CSKA Moscow, their worst-ever home defeat in European competition, continued to suffer defensively at the back.

They leaked plenty of chances to their neighbours, who are fighting relegation and have won only twice all season.

Rayo defender Emiliano Velazquez came close to equalising with a bullet header from a corner shortly after Benzema's goal.

Then, as the visitors laid siege to Madrid's goal in the closing stages, it took an impressive double save from Thibaut Courtois in stoppage time to prevent Rayo from grabbing a point.

Even though the European champions weathered the storm, it did not stop the infamously demanding Santiago Bernabeu crowd from booing their team.

It was a far from ideal send-off in their final league game of 2018 before they fly to Abu Dhabi to defend their Club World Cup title.

Despite the frantic ending and the home fans' angry reaction, Madrid coach Solari said he was happy with his side's performance, adding that the team would travel to Abu Dhabi in good spirits.

"We're feeling very good, we have won nine games out of 11 (since he replaced Julen Lopetegui), we've cut the gap with the teams at the top, we finished first in our Champions League group, we're still in the Copa del Rey and now we're going to a tournament which makes Madrid fans very excited," he said.

The coach dismissed fitness concerns about Benzema and Marco Asensio, who were substituted in the second half, saying he thought both players had only sustained knocks.

Late Griezmann strike ends Atletico's away day hoodoo

Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann struck the decisive goal in a thrilling 3-2 win at Real Valladolid on Saturday, after they had thrown away a two-goal lead, taking them level on points with Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

Croatian forward Nikola Kalinic scored for the second league game in a row to put Atletico ahead in the 26th minute, sliding to the ground to produce a powerful finish after latching on to a wonderful pass from Griezmann.

The Frenchman doubled Atletico's lead on the stroke of halftime by hammering a penalty into the top corner after it was awarded with the help of the Video Assistant Referee but Valladolid came out fighting in the second half.

Fernando Calero headed the home side back into the game from a corner in the 57th and six minutes later they levelled with an own goal from Atletico's Saul Niguez following another corner.

Griezmann had the final say with 10 minutes left, arrowing the ball into the far corner from close range after Valladolid failed to clear. It gave Diego Simeone's side their first away win in La Liga since beating Getafe 2-0 on September 22.

The victory takes Atletico second in the standings, locked on 31 points with leaders Barcelona, who face Levante on Sunday, and three ahead of Sevilla before their game at home to Girona.

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