Real Madrid moved one point clear at the top of the La Liga table on Saturday after their 2-0 win over Celta Vigo at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
It’s a league lead that could last little more than 12 hours, though, with Atletico Madrid (who have three games in hand) travelling to Alaves on Sunday with visions of returning to Spanish football’s summit.
Sergio Ramos sat out the visit of Eduardo Coudet’s men with a reported stomach illness, but the hosts maintained their stout defensive form behind Raphael Varane and Nacho as Thibaut Courtois claimed his seventh clean sheet of the league season.
Following the match, Zinedine Zidane said: “They’re the most in-form team we’ve played. We had difficulties, but we controlled the game. We pressed them high up, we didn’t let their good players play.
“We’re always better when we go for the game. We have more problems sometimes when we’re in our half. Our style is to go for the game, and the pressing of the front three is important.”
Madrid needed just six minutes to take the lead, but did so in a series of events that could have changed the complexion of the game.
With Courtois beaten by a chipped effort from Iago Aspas, Nacho cleared the goal-bound attempt off the line, starting a rapid Madrid counterattack. The ball found its way to Marco Asensio on the left wing, from where he stood up a cross to the far post that was met by the head of Lucas Vazquez to open the scoring. It was the latter’s 15th La Liga goal with Los Blancos, and the former’s 15th league assist for the club.
Celta thought they had a route back into the contest in the 28th minute when Renato Tapia’s flick struck the arm of Ferland Mendy in the Madrid box, but when video replay confirmed that the left-back’s arm was tucked tightly against his body, the VAR denied the visitors’ penalty appeals.
Madrid put the result beyond doubt in the 53rd minute, with Asensio and Vazquez again combining for a goal, this time reversing roles — Asensio the goal scorer, Vazquez the provider — after Luka Modric intercepted a loose pass in midfield and sprung a devastating counter.
“We said before the game that after slipping up against Elche we wanted to show our usual aggression and win the ball back high up the pitch,” said Vazquez.
“Right now every game is key, we are on a good run, we didn’t expect to draw the other day but the team is in good shape and if we keep playing like this we’ll be fighting for everything.”
Real Madrid are next in action on Jan. 9, when they visit Osasuna, while Celta Vigo visit Ibiza on Tuesday for the second round of the Copa del Rey.