Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior scored second-half goals to earn Real Madrid a solid 2-0 win over struggling Valencia on Thursday as the visitors finished the match with 10 men.
Valencia defender Gabriel Paulista was shown a straight red 18 minutes from time for chopping down Vinicius with a wild tackle that almost started a brawl among players on the pitch.
Valencia, who fired manager Gennaro Gattuso on Wednesday, are on a five-game winless streak and are 14th on 20 points, one clear of the relegation zone.
Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was happy with the clean sheet and said he’s seen improvement in the team’s defence as they try to close the gap to leaders Barcelona.
“We’ve now kept three clean sheets in a row. But I’d have preferred to concede the other day and win [against Real Sociedad], the most important thing is always the three points,” Courtois said.
“Defensively we’ve improved, in Bilbao and against La Real. Today they didn’t have many chances. We did well. In the first half we didn’t score but we did in the second, and with the sending off the last 15 minutes were easier.
“Real, bidding to retain the title, are under pressure from their arch-rivals Barca who are unbeaten in their last 14 matches in all competitions and on a four-game winning streak in LaLiga.
They were the better side for large parts of the game and controlled the tempo on a chilly night in Madrid, but it took them a while to find their mojo in front of goal, with Vinicius and Karim Benzema wasting good opportunities in the first half.