Santiago Solari tasted victory in his first La Liga match in charge of Real Madrid but he had the 18-year-old Vinicius Junior to thank for their 2-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday.
Solari threw Vinicius on with the score goalless and tension building at the Santiago Bernabeu but the teenage striker delivered, before Sergio Ramos’ late penalty gave the scoreline a deceptively comfortable look.
The opener in the 83rd minute was an own-goal, deflected off Kiko Olivas, but prompted by Vinicius’ weaving run and shot, the kind of exuberance Madrid’s toothless attack has been so bereft of in recent weeks.
Vinicius celebrated by running over to the bench and hugging Solari. He knows the youngster better than anyone at the club, having managed him with Castilla this season.
Julen Lopetegui had, understandably, decided Madrid’s B team was the best place for Vinicius to settle but with every chance missed, the youngster’s reputation has swelled.
He started as Madrid thrashed Melilla in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday but those were opponents from the Spanish third tier. This was Solari’s first proper test.
It could so easily have been different, as Valladolid twice hit the crossbar and looked on course for a well-deserved point. There were whistles at half-time from the home crowd, and during the second half too.
Instead, Solari and Madrid head into Wednesday’s Champions League game against Viktoria Plzen with their confidence boosted and momentum enhanced.
They had started well. Their best chance of the first half arrived in the third minute, Marco Asensio slipping in Karim Benzema, who dragged his finish wide of the far post.
Gareth Bale, Casemiro and Benzema all went close with headers, two of them swung in from 21-year-old left-back Sergio Reguilon but Valladolid survived. Then, as Madrid faded, they took control.
Antonito was sent clear but lifted his finish over both Thibaut Courtois and the crossbar. Enes Unal nipped in front Nacho but headed wide from six yards.
– Madrid ride their luck –
The Real players departed to whistles and returned to whistles either side of half-time but there was fresh impetus from the hosts after the restart.
In the space of a minute, Benzema’s shot was blocked by the midriff of Fernando Calero, Casemiro’s was palmed away and Bale missed with another header.
Again, Valladolid survived and again, they came back strong. They hit the crossbar, twice.
Ruben Alcaraz’s looping effort plopped off the top but Toni Villa’s left it quivering. Madrid were shaking too.
For the second weekend running, Bale came off when his team needed a goal. Isco and Vinicius came on, the latter to an explosion of cheers.
The expectation on the 18-year-old was high but he delivered, dribbling in from the left and unleashing a shot from the angle. It took a cruel deflection off Olivas and crept inside the corner.
With the tension lifted, Madrid made sure in the 88th minute as Benzema was brought down. Ramos chipped the penalty down the middle.
Earlier, Antoine Griezmann scored a brilliant free-kick but Atletico Madrid missed the chance to go top after drawing 1-1 at struggling Leganes.
Griezmann’s bending effort in the second half looked likely to prove the difference in a contest short on chances at Butarque but Guido Carrillo’s 82nd-minute equaliser earned Leganes a deserved point.
Atletico could have moved above Barcelona, for a few hours at least, but instead Diego Simeone’s side sit a point behind the league leaders, who face Rayo Vallecano later on Saturday. Leganes remain 18th and without a win in five matches.
“We played for more and wanted more but have to settle for a point,” Simeone said.
“The feeling is bitter-sweet,” added Saul Niguez. “We know it is in these matches where the league is decided. Leganes played a great first half but we have to be more ambitious and should have won.”
Source: G Sport