Benzema brace, VAR help Madrid beat Leganes, Atletico loses
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Karim Benzema scored twice to lead Real Madrid over Leganes 4-1 in the Spanish league on Saturday, including one goal awarded by an overrule from the video assistant referee.
At 1-1 in the 48th minute and with Leganes holding its own, Benzema skillfully headed in an out-swerving cross from Marco Asensio despite tussling with defender Jonathan Silva.
In real time, referee Jaime Latre called a foul on Benzema that annulled the goal. But after consulting the VAR monitor on the sideline, Latre reversed his decision upon seeing Silva fell only after he grabbed onto Benzema’s arm.
Following the wait that lasted around half a minute, Benzema was embraced by his teammates at the midfield circle.
“It is true that the goal celebration is somewhat muted (after the wait), but I have always said that I am in favor of (the VAR) because it was a goal that had been disallowed,” Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. “I am sure that one day it will be our turn to be on the other end of things, but it is positive.”
Gareth Bale scored the opener for Madrid by volleying in a headed pass from Dani Carvajal.
Visitors Leganes equalized on their first attack to reach Madrid’s area in the 24th. Guido Carrillo’s penalty beat goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on his debut with Madrid.
Benzema scored an exquisite second goal to make it 3-1 after working a one-two with Luka Modric.
Ramos rounded off the rout with a penalty after Asensio was clumsily cut down by Unai Bustinza.
NOT MISSING RONALDO
For years, Benzema and Bale interchanged parts as second and third fiddles to Cristiano Ronaldo.
And after Ronaldo left Madrid for Juventus in Serie A, many Madrid fans thought the club would its top scorer.
So far, the team has done more than fine without the Portugal captain thanks to the fine form of Benzema and Bale.
Benzema has five goals in four matches, while Bale has picked up where he left off last season with three goals.
Led by its two forwards, Madrid has won all three league matches.
Barcelona can match Madrid with three victories if it wins at promoted Huesca on Sunday.
Atletico Madrid lost its first match of the season after going down at Celta Vigo 2-0 in a poorly played match it finished with 10 men.
Striker Maxi Gomez put Celta ahead seconds after halftime when he pounced on a ball after Diego Godin slipped. Gomez set up Iago Aspas for a header he sent off the turf and inside the post in the 52nd.
Defender Stefan Savic was sent off for the final 20 minutes when he received a second yellow card for dangerously lifting his studs near the face of Aspas while disputing the ball.
The loss for Diego Simeone’s side came after it opened La Liga with a win and draw.
“It is a good wake-up call. Above all for me,” Simeone said. “I am responsible for our start to the second half because the second half depends a lot on what the manager says at halftime.”
Celta remained unbeaten in three matches under new coach Antonio Mohamed.