Spain: Real Madrid were back on track to winning the Spanish championship after Karim Benzema returned from injury and scored two penalties in a 2-1 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Benzema, who also had a penalty saved in Vigo, missed Madrid’s 4-0 loss to Barcelona before the two-week international break due to a left-leg ailment.
Celta took the game to the league leaders, only to be undone by poor defending in their area and several questionable refereeing decisions. The third penalty, which set up Benzema’s 70th-minute winner, was awarded after Ferland Mendy stumbled over Kevin Vázquez’s leg. Celta also had a goal waived off after a video review in the first half.
Madrid has a 12-point lead over Sevilla, as well as a 15-point lead over Barcelona and Atlético Madrid.
On Wednesday, Madrid travels to London to begin their Champions League quarterfinal against Chelsea.
Benzema’s brace brought his total to 34 goals in all competitions, his highest total since joining Real Madrid 13 years ago. His previous best was 32, which he achieved in 2012. Last month, he scored a hat trick in the second half to eliminate Paris Saint-Germain from Europe’s best championship.
Carlo Ancelotti, the coach of Real Madrid, was unable to participate in the match after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. Davide Ancelotti, his son, took his position.
In the 19th minute, Benzema scored a penalty after Madrid defender Éder Milito was tripped by Nolito while attempting to cross the ball inside the area.
Celta produced more scoring chances than the pacesetters despite going behind early.
In the 23rd minute, Thibaut Courtois made an outstanding one-handed stop to deflect a free kick by Iago Aspas. Thiago Galhardo thought he had equalized in the 39th minute with a header from a Nolito ball, but a video review indicated that Aspas had interfered with defender David Alaba’s clearance attempt because he was offside.
Celta’s perseverance paid off in the 52nd minute, when Aspas played the ball wide to Javi Galán, who squared the ball back into the center of the area for the unmarked Nolito to beat Courtois and tie the game at 1-1.
After Jeison Murillo tripped substitute Rodgyro in the box, Benzema had a chance to put Madrid back in front. Dituro dove to his left to block Benzema’s attempt in the 64th minute, donning a baseball cap to assist block out the brightness from the setting sun.
However, Dituro was powerless to stop Benzema’s third spot kick, which he blasted barely inside the left post as the goalkeeper slid the wrong way.
After spending this week on trial for allegedly rapping a lady in 2017, Celta striker Santi Mina was utilized as a late substitute. He is adamant in his denial of any wrongdoing. The outcome will be known in a few weeks.