11/3/2018 10:19:31 PM

Teenager Vinicius makes difference as Madrid scrape past Valladolid

Teenager Vinicius makes difference as Madrid scrape past Valladolid

Madrid, Spain: Santiago Solari tasted victory in his first La Liga match in charge of Real Madrid, but he had the 18-year-old Vinicius Junior to thank for their 2-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday. 

Solari threw Vinicius on with the score goalless and tension building at the Santiago Bernabeu but the striker delivered, before Sergio Ramos' late penalty gave the scoreline a deceptively comfortable look. 

The opener in the 83rd minute was an own-goal, deflected off Kiko Olivas, but prompted by Vinicius' weaving run and shot, the kind of exuberance Madrid's toothless attack has been so bereft of in recent weeks. 

Vinicius celebrated by running over to the bench and hugging Solari. He knows the youngster better than anyone at the club, having managed him with Castilla this season. 

Julen Lopetegui had, understandably, decided Madrid's B team was the best place for Vinicius to settle but with every chance missed, the youngster's reputation has swelled. 

The 40 million-euro signing from Flamengo started as Madrid thrashed Melilla in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday but those were opponents from the Spanish third tier. This was Solari's first proper test. 

Lopetegui had repeatedly bemoaned a lack of luck too during his bad run and even that appeared to turn in Solari's favour. Vinicius' shot cannoned in off Olivas between Valladolid twice hitting the crossbar and Karim Benzema winning a dubious late penalty. 

"When the ball won't go in you have to keep calm," Ramos said. "You have to ignore the uncertainty that is created. Finally, we have a positive result for our confidence."

There were whistles at half-time from the home crowd, and during the second half as well, but cheers, perhaps of relief, at the end.

Gareth Bale was not on the pitch to hear them after he had been replaced in the 71st minute with the team still searching for a goal.

Madrid, however, head into Wednesday's Champions League game against Viktoria Plzen with their first win in six league games, as well as their own confidence boosted and their coach's momentum enhanced.

"This is an experienced group, not a bunch of kids," Solari said. "They have found themselves too."

His team had started well. Their best chance of the first half arrived in the third minute, Marco Asensio slipping in Karim Benzema, who dragged his finish wide of the far post. 

Bale, Casemiro and Benzema all went close with headers but Valladolid survived. Then, as Madrid faded, they took control. 

Antonito was sent clear but lifted his finish over both Thibaut Courtois and the crossbar. Enes Unal nipped in front Nacho but headed wide from six yards. 

The Real players departed to whistles and returned to whistles either side of half-time but there was fresh impetus from the hosts after the restart. 

In the space of a minute, Benzema's shot was blocked by the midriff of Fernando Calero, Casemiro's was palmed away and Bale missed with another header. 

Again, Valladolid survived and again, they came back strong. They hit the crossbar, twice. Ruben Alcaraz's looping effort plopped off the top but Toni Villa's left it quivering. Madrid were shaking too. 

For the second weekend running, Bale came off when his team needed a goal. Isco and Vinicius came on, the latter to an explosion of cheers. 

The expectation on the teenager was high but he responded, dribbling in from the left and unleashing a shot from the angle. It took a cruel deflection off Olivas and crept inside the corner. 

With the tension lifted, Madrid made sure in the 88th minute as Benzema was brought down. Ramos chipped the penalty down the middle to seal victory.

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