Karim Benzema scored two penalties and had another saved as Real Madrid won 2-1 at Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Benzema put Madrid ahead from the spot in the 19th minute before Celta had a Thiago Galhardo headed equaliser ruled out for offside in a lively first half. The home side levelled through Nolito at 52 minutes and Benzema saw a second penalty saved by goalkeeper Matias Dituro, before dispatching a third spot-kick on 69 minutes to secure the three points.

The result leaves Madrid 12 points clear at the top of the LaLiga table with eight games left to play. Second-placed Sevilla are due to travel to Barcelona on Sunday.

“It was very important,” Thibaut Courtois said afterwards.

“Celta away is always a difficult game, you can always suffer here. All our games here have been tough. I don’t know if we deserved to win, in the first half I made two great saves.

But in the end, we tried to get into their box, they’re three penalties, I think they’re fair, they’re three penalties.”

Celta Vigo, however, were far less convinced that all three incidents should have resulted in penalties being given by referee Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes.

“I think the first two were ‘penaltitos’ [little penalties] but the last one wasn’t, from my point of view,” Iago Aspas said. “All that was missing was to give one last [penalty] for Pablo to take it.

Otherwise, it would have been a Benzema hat trick, it seemed like that was what he wanted.”

Manager Carlo Ancelotti was absent at Balaidos after testing positive for COVID-19. The Italian made four changes to the team that had lost 4-0 to Barca before the international break, with Benzema, Ferland Mendy, Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio all starting.

A busy start saw an Iago Aspas shot deflected wide and Benzema put a header into the side netting before Courtois made the first of three spectacular first-half saves, tipping Denis Suarez’s shot over the bar. Nolito’s clumsy challenge felled Eder Militao inside the box and Benzema converted to make this his highest-scoring campaign for Real Madrid.

Courtois was needed again to reach Aspas’ curling free-kick, and later tipped Galhardo’s header onto the post. The ball spun into the net, but referee Gonzalez Fuertes disallowed the goal after consulting the pitchside VAR monitor, ruling that the offside Aspas had prevented defender David Alaba from making a goal-line clearance.

After half-time, keeper Dituro pushed away Luka Modric’s dipping shot, but Celta struck next at the other end, Nolito sweeping past Courtois to make it 1-1.

Madrid were awarded a second penalty when substitute Rodrygo took on defender Jeison Murillo and was brought down, only for Dituro to deny Benzema.

Five minutes later, France forward had the chance to make amends when Mendy went down under full-back Kevin Vazquez’s challenge, and this time sent Dituro the wrong way to score his 34th goal of the season in all competitions.

Madrid will now turn their attention back to the Champions League and Wednesday’s quarterfinal first leg at Chelsea.

“Winning today is important,” Courtois said. “Chelsea lost at home today, they’ll be strong on Wednesday, it will be another great game. We have to give more, we lack a bit of intensity sometimes, we can’t lack intensity on Wednesday, Chelsea are good like that. We have to be intense and aggressive because we have the football.”


Courtesy: ESPN FC

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