Vinicius Junior’s sensational start to the season continued on Saturday as he scored twice in Real Madrid’s 2-1 victory over Elche to ensure the rested Karim Benzema was not missed. Vinicius had already given Madrid the lead when Elche’s Raul Guti was sent off in the 63rd minute and he added a second soon after with a superb chipped finish into the corner. Madrid made life difficult for themselves late on when a Casemiro mistake allowed Pere Milla to pull a goal back but Elche’s brief hope of a comeback came to nothing. The win sends Madrid back to the top of La Liga at least for a few hours, with Sevilla, Real Betis and, more realistically, Real Sociedad able to overtake them later this weekend.
“We were very practical,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. “After only two days rest it’s not possible to play with intensity and energy. We played with a low block and tried to find opportunities. Fortunately we got the three points.”
Benzema’s resurgence for France means Madrid no longer have their chief goalscorer all to themselves and after 17 games played already this term, Ancelotti opted to leave the striker at home.
It meant a surprise start for Mariano Diaz but it was Vinicius who filled the void, scoring his eighth and ninth goals of the season to continue an excellent run of form.
The 21-year-old Brazilian has long been circled as one of Madrid’s most exciting talents but he has found a different level under Ancelotti.
“I haven’t done anything,” Ancelotti said. “I just try to give him confidence. I am not a magician.”
Elche came in 15th and unbeaten at the Martinez Valero this season and started well, with Lucas Boye lashing an early shot at Thibaut Courtois.
At the other end, Rodrygo ballooned over after a Madrid counter-attack and that was his last contribution before going off injured after 17 minutes, replaced by Marco Asensio.
Vinicius gave Madrid the lead shortly after and it came from a Johan Mojica mistake at left-back as his loose pass was punched forward first-time by Casemiro into Mariano, who backheelded behind him into the path of Vinicius.
Vinicius took one touch into the area and clipped a left-footed finish into the far corner.
Elche should have levelled but Lucas Perez skewed wide after a clever flick by Boye and they pushed again early in the second half.
Guti had the best chance but side-footed straight at Courtois and as the goalkeeper tossed the ball out to Toni Kroos, Guti flew into the German, his sliding challenge earning him a second yellow card.
A man up with half an hour left, Madrid regained control and added a superb second. It started with a slick combination between their midfield three as Casemiro laid off for Kroos, who steered a sumptuous pass through Elche’s midfield to Luka Modric.
Modric slid through Vinicius, who drew out the goalkeeper just enough before scooping it over him and into the net.
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Elche were given unexpected hope with five minutes left when Madrid gifted them a goal back. Casemiro and Kroos were guilty, as Casemiro’s pass was cut out and headed straight into Pere Milla, with the sliding Kroos failing to intercept. Milla finished past Courtois.
Pedro Bigas missed a header from one of numerous Elche crosses slung into the box but Madrid survived.