Real Madrid left it late to clinch all three points as they beat Valladolid 2-0 on Friday evening, returning to the top of the La Liga table.
An open-ended first half saw both sides spurn chances to take the lead, none more though than Karim Benzema, who fired over the crossbar from six yards out on his return to action.
Los Blancos upped the ante in search of a win after the break, but not by enough to break down a now stubborn Valladolid defence. The hosts forced Real wide and limited their chances, while countering themselves as the game drew on. But a late penalty was awarded to Real, and when Benzema converted, that was game over. That spot-kick gave him the confidence to fire in a second before the final whistle.
The champions started with intent in the north of Spain and almost had an opener after 10 minutes when Marco Asensio forced a save from Jordi Masip. The attention was quickly off him, though, as his teammate Benzema somehow missed a sitter seven minutes later, smashing a simple rebound over the bar.
Valladolid had a rare venture forward shortly after as they worked their way into the game, Ivan Sanchez slicing a shot off target.
Proceedings opened up from there, but neither side had the composure to find the back of the ner and take a lead into half-time.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side seemed to stutter in the second half, with Valladolid happy to sit in and soak up the pressure and Real struggling to penetrate their defence with the same regularity as the first half. Changes on the hour mark seemed to unsettle the visitors, with Pacheta’s side catching them sleeping from a corner and forcing last-ditch defending to keep the scores level.
The lack of quality was evident in the first game back for both sides, with clear cut chances becoming infrequent and opportunities being missed. But just as Valladolid looked to be heading towards full-time with a point at the expense of the champions, a VAR call turned the game on its head.
A corner swung in by Toni Kroos ricocheted around the box and appeared to strike the hand of Javi Sanchez, and after being sent to the monitor, referee José Luis Munuera Montero awarded a spot kick which Benzema coolly converted.
Sergio Leon received a red card amid the penalty drama which was the final nail in the coffin for now 10-man Valladolid, who couldn’t fight back and conceded a second as Benzema found his scoring touch for 2-0.
GK: Jordi Masip (7); RB: Ivan Fresneda (8), CB: Joaquin Fernandez (6), CB: Javi Sanchez (7), LB: Sergio Escudero (7); CM: Roque Mesa (6), CM: Monchu (7), CM: Alvaro Aguado (7); RW: Ivan Sanchez (7), ST: Sergio Leon (5), LW: Oscar Plano (6)
Subs: Gonzalo Plata (5), Luis Perez (6), Kike Perez (6), Shon Weissman (6), Kenedy (6)
GK: Thibaut Courtois (8); RB: Dani Carvajal (7), CB: Antonio Rudiger (6), CB: Eder Militao (7), LB: Ferland Mendy (7); CM: Federico Valverde (8), CM: Toni Kroos (8), CM: Dani Ceballos (7); RW: Marco Asensio (7), ST: Karim Benzema (9), LW: Vinicius Junior (6)
Subs: Rodrygo (6), Lucas Vasquez (7), Eduardo Camavinga (7), Aurelien Tchouameni (6), Luka Modric (6)