Karim Benzema bailed out Real Madrid once again, but the French striker insisted the 2-1 win at Valencia was richly deserved, as their unbeaten LaLiga run stretched to 23 games.
The capital giants had trailed to a fine 66th-minute strike from Hugo Duro that looked set to take Valencia to the top of the table, but instead it is Madrid who sit on that perch with 13 points from five games.
Captain Benzema teed up Vinicius Junior to slot in an 86th-minute leveller, with the help of a deflection, before roles were reversed for the winner two minutes later.
A teasing cross from Vinicius was perfect for Benzema to attack, and although the ball went in off his shoulder rather than his forehead, as was the intention, they all count.
Benzema has now scored in his last six games against Valencia, and Sunday’s late show was sweet revenge for the 4-1 thumping that Madrid took at Mestalla last November.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti described his team’s spirit as “indomitable” and Benzema saw it similarly.
The 33-year-old said: “I think it was a difficult game for us against a great team who are always difficult to beat here.
“I think we deserved the three points that are important to us. Each game is a final, today was another final and we won.
“All the players on the pitch and the people who came on at the end of the game to help us, it is a victory for the squad. If I can continue like this, scoring, the most important thing is that they are important for the club.”
Madrid are unbeaten in their last 18 away trips (W12 D6) in LaLiga, which equals their best such run in the competition’s history, having previously reached 18 games unbeaten in 1997 (W11 D7) and 2016 (W13 D5).
Benzema has six goals already this season in LaLiga from an expected goals (xG) total of 2.61, indicating he is having an outstanding run in front of goal.
He has become the first player since Lionel Messi in 2011-12 to be directly involved in 11 or more goals in the first five games of a LaLiga campaign (six goals, five assists).
This season has seen Vinicius very much come to the party too, bagging five goals from an xG of 2.3, also outperforming expectations substantially, and now adding a first assist.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 19, 2021
Quoted by AS, Vinicius said the win at Valencia was credit to Madrid’s refusal to accept they are ever beaten.
“It is always difficult to play here, but we continue to believe and Madrid never give up,” said the 21-year-old Brazilian.
“The main virtue is patience. It was the job of the coach and the whole team. We are doing things like never before. We played well, but things didn’t work out and in the end we got the comeback. I am happy with the victory “
It was a victory that delighted Ancelotti, who has yet to lose a competitive game since returning to the club in the close season.
“We have not won because of quality, but because of the indomitable spirit of the team,” said Ancelotti. “We continued to the end.”