By Alfonso Gil
Villarreal, Spain, Oct 4 (efe-epa).- A goal by Vinicius midway through the first half and another by Benzema in stoppage time handed a 2-0 road win to Real Madrid, along with the top spot in the La Liga rankings, over Levante in Villarreal in a match that saw the capital squad slide from more to less.
The Valencian team seemed to find its rhythm in the last half hour of play and almost tied things up, but the 94th minute goal put an end to Levante’s hopes for a draw.
The match was played before empty stands, due to coronavirus gathering restrictions, at La Ceramica Stadium.
Although Madrid clearly dominated Levante during almost the first hour of play, after a few changes Thibault Courtois had his work cut out for him as he had to defend the net against an energized local squad.
The first tally came in the 16th minute after a corner kick by Modric that Vinicius controlled without opposition until he blasted it past Aitor Fernandez.
The young Brazilian’s goal didn’t change the dynamic of the game, and Zinedine Zidane’s team remained solid and secure in denying virtually any offensive momentum to their rivals, although Vukcevic at the half-hour point managed to create a little danger of evening things up.
Real Madrid kept up its offensive threat after the break, approaching Levante’s net repeatedly with nice drives and sallies and preventing the host team from advancing into the danger zone.
Benzema fired a shot that bounced off the post in the 51st minute and Vinicius also had a couple of chances to push the team further ahead, but those possibilities did not fully develop.
It was after Levante coach Paco Lopez inserted Melero and De Frutos, in the 55th minute that things heated up and the Valencia team managed to free itself from the suffocating domination of the visitors, with a VAR look taking back a goal scored by Sergio Ramos in the 68th minute.
Levante seemed to come to life, improving markedly as the second half progressed and working to create a tie, from which it might build toward a home win.
But with extra time running out, it was Benzema who sealed the deal for Madrid.
Levante: Aitor Fernandez, Miramon, Vezo, Postigo, Clerc, Campaña, Vukcevic (Melero, m.55), Malsa (Radoja, m.73), Bardhi, Morales (Dani Gomez, m.69) and Roger (De Frutos, m.55).
Real Madrid: Courtois, Nacho, Sergio Ramos, Varane, Mendy, Valverde (Odegaard, m.88), Casemiro, Modric (Isco, m.89), Asensio (Rodrygo, m.69), Benzema and Vinicius (Lucas Vazquez, m.69).
Referee: Munuera Mntero yellow-carded Levante’s Bardhi and Miramon, along with Real Madrid’s Casemiro.