Benzema, Vinicius fire Real Madrid past Valencia
Madrid, Jan 8, 2022 (AFP) - Karim Benzema passed 300 goals for Real Madrid and Vinicius Junior produced another moment of magic as La Liga's run-away leaders sailed past Valencia 4-1 on Saturday.
Benzema and Vinicius both scored twice at the Santiago Bernabeu to send Madrid eight points clear of second-placed Sevilla, who have two games in hand, the first coming against Getafe on Sunday.
Benzema's 300th goal arrived from the penalty spot before Vinicius bamboozled five Valencia defenders, via a one-two with his French teammate, to add a brilliant second early in the second half.
Vinicius then headed in a third and Benzema added a late fourth, either side of Goncalo Guedes converting a penalty for the hosts.
Benzema now has 17 goals this season and Vinicius 12, their combined 29 more than the entirety of 13 teams in the division, including fourth-placed Real Sociedad.
"I feel very good with Vinicius," Benzema said. "I'm always here to help him, I know his potential, I think he can reach an even higher level. He is a fantastic player for us."
Benzema's triple century came after 584 appearances for Real Madrid. He is the fourth player in the club's history to reach the milestone, joining the esteemed trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul and Alfredo di Stefano.
Barcelona and Real Madrid will face off in the semi-finals of the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday but the Catalans must look on with envy now at the class Madrid possess in attack.
A lack of punch had earlier cost Barca dear in a 1-1 draw with Granada that saw them miss the chance to move into La Liga's top four.
Instead they stay sixth, level on points with Atletico Madrid, who are still to face Villarreal on Sunday. Real Sociedad sit fourth after they had earlier won 1-0 at home to Celta Vigo.
Luuk de Jong headed Xavi Hernandez's side into the lead at Los Carmenes, only for Granada's Antonio Puertas to equalise in the 89th minute, 10 minutes after Barcelona's 17-year-old Gavi had been sent off.
De Jong nodded in a cross from Dani Alves, the 38-year-old who was making his first La Liga appearance since May 2016.
"We needed to have patience, to keep the ball and play in the opposition's half, but we lost silly balls, it was our mistakes," said Xavi Hernandez.
Gavi's mistake gave Granada impetus at a crucial moment but Barcelona's lack of goals means they are constantly vulnerable to the slightest error. They have won only one game by more than a single goal since October.
"Before the sending off we had to kill the game. It should have been 2-0. We have to be self-critical and grow," Xavi said.
Madrid were more clinical. Luka Modric had already hit the crossbar when Casemiro was brought down in the area by Omar Alderete and Benzema curled in the penalty.
Vinicius scored a superb second in the 52nd minute, driving into the area with a cluster of Valencia defenders ahead of him.
After a one-two with Benzema, the Brazilian appeared to have been stopped by Mouctar Diakhaby but he kept going and the ball squirmed loose, allowing him to sidefoot into the corner.
Vinicius nodded in a third on the line and Valencia's Guedes pulled one back from the penalty spot before Benzema's smart finish on the turn gave him his second of the game, 301st overall, and Madrid's fourth.