By Rania Elhilali.
Real Madrid kept La Liga’s title race alive on Thursday night, securing another three points with a 3-0 win against Valencia at an empty Alfredo di Stefano stadium that witnessed a wonder-strike from Karim Benzema.
After a slow start, Zinedine Zidane’s side put on an offensive show in a second-half filled with many wonderful moments.
Benzema opened the scoring in the 61st minute, ably assisted by Eden Hazard who has been essential to Real Madrid in his second game since injury in February.
Marco Asensio came on as a substitute in the 74th minute and scored with his first touch just 30 seconds later. The Spaniard was making his first appearance since a serious knee injury that kept him off the field for almost a year.
“I couldn’t wait to come back after so many months of hard work”, Asensio said after the game.
“It was emotional and so satisfying to be back out there. I’m thrilled to have been able to play, with the goal and the team win.
“The most important thing is we got the win and I feel in good shape heading into the closing stages of the season.”
Asensio also assisted Benzema’s second goal of the night, which will be a contender for goal of the season.
It was a lovely cross on a counter-attack that the Frenchman then set up for himself to volley into the top corner. It was his 16th league goal of the campaign and his 5th brace of the season.
“Benzema’s was a wonder goal,” said Zidane. “The move itself, then the left-footed volley, it’s his weaker foot.
“I’m pleased he got his goal, and even more so for Asensio because after 8 months, simply getting back out on the pitch, he was very happy, and to score a goal in the first move shows he’s sharp and has the quality to produce that kind of thing.”
Los Blancos remain two points behind Barcelona and will be on the road for their next league game when they up against Real Sociedad, who will be looking to bounce back after a 2-0 loss against Deportivo Alaves.
“We are where we want to be but now we have to keep going because this is the second game, we’ve got nine finals to come, added Zidane.
“We have to rest up now because we don’t have much time, and we then we have to prepare for Sunday’s game.”