Real Madrid beat Valencia 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday night. The reigning LaLiga champions needed the victory to keep stride with rivals Barcelona. Barca beat Real Betis on Wednesday to extend their lead atop the LaLiga table to eight points. However, Real have now closed the gap back to five with the win.

Real dominated the early stages of the match on Thursday. The hosts had 70% possession and five total shots compared to Valencia’s zero shots inside the opening half an hour. However, the reigning champions could not put goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili under too much pressure during this timeframe.

Star defender Eder Militao was then forced to leave the pitch in the 35th minute of the match. The center back jumped awkwardly and appeared to twist his ankle on the landing. Dani Carvajal, typically a full back, replaced the Brazilian in central defense. Militao, however, did not seem too concerned about the injury and was seen smiling on the bench later in the match.

Antonio Rüdiger finally put the ball into the net only moments from halftime. The fellow center back headed in a goal from a corner kick. Yet, the goal was eventually chalked off with help from a VAR review. Replays showed Karim Benzema pushing Yunus Musah only seconds before Rüdiger headed the shot. Severity of the contact was certainly debatable. Nevertheless, the goal did not stand, and the game was scoreless heading into the break.

Asensio, Vini put Real Madrid up over Valencia

Real finally grabbed the lead early in the second half thanks for Marco Asensio. The winger struck a beautiful long-range shot from just outside of the box. The ball essentially knuckled in the air, bewildering Mamardashvili in goal. He never even moved from his spot.

Vinicius doubled Real’s lead just two minutes later. The team’s other winger collected the ball from around the middle of pitch, outpaced Valencia defender Gabriel Paulista, and finished neatly passed the keeper with a low shot.

However, the man providing the assists on both goals, Karim Benzema, had to be substituted in the 60th minute because of an injury. The Frenchman limped off the field and went straight down to the locker room. Rodrygo entered the fray for the hosts.

Paulista sent off for wild challenge

Tempers flared in the 72nd minute when Paulista wildly tackled Vinicius out on the flank. The center back was sent off for the seemingly deliberate attempt to hurt the Real player. Both Brazilians clashed in the subsequent reactions to the challenge. Militao even had words with Paulista on the sidelines as the Valencia defender exited the pitch.

Valencia are now just one point away from the bottom three in the table. The lower third of the league table is packed, as well. In fact, teams between 11th and 18th in the Spanish top flight are separated by just three points.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Pressinphoto