The Malta Independent 12 August 2020, Wednesday

Spanish La Liga: Benzema scores on last kick as Madrid draws 1-1 at Valencia

Associated Press Sunday, 15 December 2019, 23:39 Last update: about 9 months ago

Karim Benzema scored with the final kick of the match to snatch a 1-1 draw for Real Madrid at Valencia in the Spanish league on Sunday.

The draw wasted a chance for Madrid to take the outright lead. Second-place Madrid is level on points with league leader Barcelona before the teams meet in their "clásico" at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Thibaut Courtois played a key role in Benzema’s goal when the Belgium goalkeeper joined the attack on a corner kick five minutes into stoppage time. Thibaut rose to connect with a powerful header that his counterpart Jaume Domenech batted down into the crowded box, where it reached Benzema to smash it home.

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Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane rested holding midfielder Casemiro, who has four yellow cards and would have risked a suspension if he had played.

Federico Valverde took the Brazilian’s place and had the game’s first scoring chance when he combined quick passes with Benzema before forcing Domenech to get low.

Madrid was also without injured left backs Marcelo and Ferland Mendy, and Zidane had to employ the little-used Nacho Fernández, a central defender, on the left side of his back line.

Madrid dominated the first half hour, working several flowing passing combinations to get into firing range.

Valencia held firm thanks to holding midfielder Francis Coquelin until playmaker Dani Parejo shifted the action into a back-and-forth exchange.

Rising talent Ferrán Torres had a great opportunity for the hosts just after halftime on the break, only for Courtois to close in fast and snuff out his attempt.

Zidane sent on Gareth Bale and Vinicius Junior with just over 20 minutes left to take advantage of the open space.

But it was Valencia that broke the stalemate when Daniel Wass spotted Carlos Soler on a team break. Soler coolly fired in Wass’ pass after teammates had drawn off the backtracking defenders to take the lead in the 78th.

STREAK OVER

Villarreal ended Sevilla’s eight-match unbeaten run in the Spanish league with a 2-1 away win, leaving the hosts four points behind Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Sevilla had equalized and was pressing for a second when Villarreal got its second goal against the flow of play.

Moi Gómez responded to Manuel Trigueros' run behind the defense with a lobbed pass that the midfielder controlled with his back to the net. Trigueros then stayed calm as goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik rushed off his line before passing for the unmarked Toko Ekambi to get the 74th-minute winner.

Munir El Haddadi had canceled out Raúl Albiol’s header for Villarreal when the Sevilla forward rifled in a cross from Sergio Reguilón in the 61st.

The win was Villarreal’s first in seven rounds.

BACK IN FORM

Getafe got goals from Ángel Rodríguez and Marc Cucurella to beat Valladolid 2-0 and move past Atlético Madrid into fourth place.

After only one win in its first seven games, José Bordalás has got Getafe back to its good form from last season. The modest Madrid-based club is in contention for a Champions League berth after seven wins, two draws and one loss in its last 10 games.

STILL WINLESS

Last-place Espanyol remained without a victory at its stadium in nine games after a 2-2 draw against Real Betis.

Betis got its opening goal from Borja Iglesias. Both Iglesias and Betis coach Joan “Rubi” Ferrer helped Espanyol earn a Europa League berth last season before changing clubs.

Despite remaining five points from safety, Espanyol coach Pablo Machín was pleased by his team’s fightback from an early deficit to take a 2-1 lead before conceding a second goal to Betis’ Marc Bartra.

“The point has more value than just a number. Today’s match shows us the way forward,” Machín said.

RELEGATION FIGHT

Ante Budimir scored for Mallorca with seven minutes left to earn a 2-2 draw at struggling Celta Vigo.

The point allowed promoted Mallorca to stay just above Celta, which is in the drop zone.

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