‘Fantastic’ Vinicius Junior inspires Real Madrid win over Osasuna

‘Fantastic’ Vinicius Junior inspires Real Madrid win over Osasuna

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti hailed “fantastic player” Vinicius Junior after the Brazilian’s latest star turn against Osasuna helped cut the gap on La Liga leaders Barcelona to four points.

Federico Valverde broke the deadlock for Real Madrid in the 78th minute and Marco Asensio made sure with a second in time added on. It was Vinicius’ invention and cross that led to the opener while the 22-year-old also had a goal of his own chalked off for offside.

“Vinícius is a player who always makes the difference,” Ancelotti said.

“When we started playing more in open space in the second half that was when he took charge. He is a fantastic player, he doesn’t stop attacking, doesn’t stop dribbling at rivals, he is an incredible talent.

“This was an important win to keep us in the league race.”

Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema was missing from Real’s matchday squad as Ancelotti rested the France attacker ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg against Liverpool at Anfield.

“It was a hard-fought, close match, well played by both teams, and we are all the more satisfied to have won,” said Ancelotti.

“The boys suffered when they had to and knew how to wait for the moment to score.”

Real dominated the early proceedings with centre-back Eder Militao going close with a rushed volley from a free kick on six minutes after midfielder Eduardo Camavinga was fouled.

Less than five minutes later Vinicius saw his effort dribble past the post despite nutmegging Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera.

Los Blancos were unable to break the deadlock before the interval as the Basque hosts stepped up their aggression in defence and were shown three yellow cards in 45 minutes.

The home side’s physicality caused Ancelotti to confront the officials as they left the field at the interval as the Italian was unhappy with Osasuna’s special attention to Vinicius as whistles circled around El Sadar.

Less than 70 seconds after the interval, Real came within inches of opening the scoring as Vinicius’ compatriot Rodrygo skimmed the post with a curling effort.

Five minutes later Vinicius thought he had claimed the first goal of the game but the forward was adjudged to be offside.

Osasuna kept a foothold in the match and hit the woodwork just after the hour mark with a low-driven effort from Moi Gomez.

With 12 minutes to play Vinicius was the provider as his low cut-back cross set-up Valverde to half-volley home to open the scoring.

Asensio made sure of the three points in injury time with an assist from teenager Alvaro Rodriguez on his Real debut.

“We know that it is always tough to play here, against a team that always fights to the end,” Valverde, who scored his 12th goal of the campaign, said. “As the clock ticks down you feel the fatigue after so many games, but the goal set us on our way.”

Barca will be bidding for their seventh straight league win on Sunday when they play Cadiz at home.

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