Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, right, celebrates after scoring the opening goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Almeria at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, April 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Pablo Garcia)
Benzema notched up a first-half hattrick before Brazilian forward Rodrygo added another in Madrid’s 4-2 win over Almeria on Saturday
Karim Benzema scored a first-half hat trick to lead Real Madrid to a 4-2 win over Almeria in a Spanish league game that included an injury scare for forward Vinícius Júnior on Sarturday.
The comfortable win over Almeria ensured Madrid remained in second place while Barcelona maintained its commanding 11-point lead after beating nine-man Real Betis 4-0.
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But whether Madrid’s season ends in success or failure will hinge on next weekend’s Copa del Rey final against Osasuna and its Champions League semifinal rematch from last season with Manchester City.
With Luka Modric already doubtful for those critical games, the last thing coach Carlo Ancelotti needed was to see his best winger grab his right knee and ask to be substituted several minutes after banging into a defender.
After the match Ancelotti said Vinícius would likely be good to go.
“He had a knock on his knee that bothered him, but it’s nothing, just a knock,” Ancelotti said. “I think he will be fine in a couple of days. He will be ready for the cup final.”
Fellow Brazil forward Rodrygo also ended the game on the bench with an ice pack on his left knee. But he didn’t seem to be injured.
Madrid has one more Liga game at Real Sociedad before the Copa final against Osasuna in Seville. Three days later Madrid hosts City on May 9.
More importantly for Madrid, its players showed the ambition they lacked in a 4-2 loss at Girona midweek. That defeat led Ancelotti to admit his team lacked motivation for the league with Barcelona so far ahead on the table.
Benzema tapped in the fifth-minute opener at the Santiago Bernabeu after Vinícius dribbled past Houboulang Mendes and used the outside of his right boot to square the ball.
Rodrygo, who also scored Madrid’s fourth goal from long range just after halftime, produced another assist for Benzema after an audacious dribbling move. With Almeria’s Samu Costa draped over his back, Rodrygo rolled the ball with the back of his boot to slip it behind the defender. He spun around Costa to pick up his dribble and found Benzema to score in the 17th.
Benzema’s third came in the 42nd from a spot kick after Largie Ramazani fouled Lucas Váquez.
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Ancelotti, however, still had some worries about his defense after Lázaro scored in first-half injury time and Lucas Robertone headed in following Rodrygo’s goal.
“I don’t understand how in two games we have conceded six goals,” Ancelotti said. “I am angry. I hope this serves as a message to my team.”
Vinícius and Eduardo Camavinga will both miss Tuesday’s game at Real Sociedad after earning one-game suspensions for accumulating five yellow cards.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)