European roundup: Real Madrid beat Rayo Vallecano with late Benzema goal | European club football

A late goal from Karim Benzema rescued a 1-0 win for Real Madrid at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, allowing the La Liga leaders to extend their advantage at the top of the table. They are now nine points clear of second-placed Sevilla, who will play third-placed Real Betis on Sunday.

Real Madrid looked slow and disjointed on a threadbare pitch and were almost held to a goalless draw until Benzema and Vinicius Jr, the club’s top two scorers this season, worked their magic seven minutes from time.

The French striker found Vinicius with a brilliant through pass and ran into space to receive the ball back, finishing from close range with a single touch, scoring his 19th league goal of the season.

The Real goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, made two magnificent saves in the second half, keeping out a bullet header from Mario Suárez and a close-range shot from Álvaro Garcia.

“It was a complicated game mostly due to the field being in very poor condition,” Courtois said afterwards. “I don’t think it’s good for La Liga’s image to play on a field like this. It’s far from ideal.”

The Rayo Vallecano players were far from happy when the referee, Isidro Diaz de Mera, failed to send off Casemiro when he essayed a studs-up challenge on Óscar Valentin. The incident was reviewed, but VAR allowed the yellow card shown by the referee to stand.

Later in the day Atlético Madrid had a 2-0 home victory over Celta Vigo thanks to two goals from the Brazilian Renan Lodi either side of half-time. The visitors had the majority of possession (65% to 35%) and more shots at goal (16 against 13) but were unable to make those areas of superiority count. Atlético stand 15 points behind Real Madrid, in fourth place.

A superb double from the Serbian striker Dušan Vlahović earned Juventus a 3-2 win at Empoli, helping Massimiliano Allegri’s side to close the gap on Serie A leaders Milan to seven points.

Looking to capitalise on both Milan and second-placed Internazionale dropping points on Friday, Juve deservedly got themselves in front in the 32nd minute through a Moise Kean header to look on course for a comfortable victory. However, some woeful defending from the visitors allowed Szymon Żurkowski in to equalise seven minutes later.

Undeterred, Juve edged themselves back in front on the stroke of half-time, with Vlahović showing a neat pair of heels to swivel in the penalty area before firing home. The goal that extended Juve’s lead was even more expertly executed than the first, as Vlahović controlled a pass from Álvaro Morata before clipping a sumptuous finish into the net in the 66th minute.

An Andrea La Mantia shot squirmed into the net to get Empoli back into it 14 minutes from time, but fourth-placed Juve held on to move on to 50 points from 27 matches played, seven behind Milan and four behind Napoli in third.

Leroy Sané accepts the crowd’s acclaim after scoring Bayern Munich’s first goal against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Leroy Sané accepts the crowd’s acclaim after scoring Bayern Munich’s first goal against Eintracht Frankfurt. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich needed a 71st-minute goal from substitute Leroy Sané to break the resistance of Eintracht Frankfurt for a 1-0 win that put them nine points clear at the top.

Before the start of the game both teams held a minute’s silence to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while the stadium screen displayed the words “Stop it Putin”.

But it was quickly back to business with both teams enjoying a hectic first half.

Bundesliga top scorer and Poland forward Robert Lewandowski, playing with a blue and yellow armband in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, was frustrated by Eintracht keeper Kevin Trapp, who also denied Joshua Kimmich and Kingsley Coman with superb saves.

Frankfurt also had a golden opportunity themselves in the second half but Evan Ndicka headed over the bar from point blank range in the 65th.

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The visitors, however, were not prepared to end their record scoring run in the league and snatched the winner when Sané latched on to a perfectly timed Kimmich through-ball and tucked it away to beat Trapp.

Borussia Dortmund, in second place on 49, face Augsburg on Sunday. Bayer Leverkusen are in third place on 44 after beating Arminia Bielefeld 3-0 on Saturday.

In France, Kylian Mbappé scored two goals and created another as the Ligue 1 leaders Paris St-Germain came back from 1-0 down to beat relegation-threatened Saint-Etienne 3-1.

Denis Bouanga gave the visitors a surprise early lead before Lionel Messi set up Mbappé up for the equaliser with a fine pass into the penalty box. Then Messi again provided the assist as Mbappé added a second after the break. Danilo Pereira sealed the win to put PSG 16 points clear at the top.

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