Marco Asensio scored with his first touch after 10 months out with a cruciate knee ligament injury as Real Madrid beat Valencia 3-0 to move back within two points of Barcelona.
Asensio wore a big smile as he made his entrance on 72 minutes to end a miserable year in which he went under the knife last August having sustained the left knee injury in a friendly against Arsenal.
The grin broadened as he made the most incredible of returns to action within seconds of coming on. Toni Kroos swung a corner over from the right and Sergio Ramos got his head to it but the ball ran out to Ferland Mendy down the Madrid left.
Marco Asensio’s face was a picture of joy after be banished the demons of a long lay-off to score with his first touch
The Spaniard volleyed home Ferland Mendy’s cross expertly just moments after being brought onto the pitch
Eden Hazard (left) and Luka Modric (right) combined before feeding Karim Benzema, who slotted home for the opener
The Frenchman is now Real Madrid’s joint-fifth highest scorer of all time, level with Ferenc Puskas with 242 goals
He tricked his way to the byline and crossed with pace for Asensio to beat Jasper Cillessen with a sweetly executed side-foot volley into the far corner.
The clean thwack from the substitute’s left boot resonating in the empty Alfredo di Stefano stadium will have been music to Zinedine Zidane’s ears – he had also seen the flourishing Eden Hazard-Karim Benzema partnership bear fruit to deliver the opening goal.
Now Asensio had got immediately back into the groove after such a long road back from injury.
It was on the hour that Hazard teed-up Benzema having swapped passes with Luka Modric and the French forward shot past Cillessen to give Real Madrid a precious lead.
Benzema would also get the third – his 16th goal in the league this seaosn and who else but Asensio set-up the chance with a pass from the right.
Benzema took one touch to flip the ball up and another to bury a volley past Cillessen.
Valencia misery was complete when Lee Kang-In was sent off for kicking out widely at Ramos’ ankles.
Before kick-off team captains Ramos and Dani Parejo held up a Madrid shirt that carried a message of support for former Barcelona assistant coach Juan Carlos Unzue who has revealed he is suffering from motor neurone disease.
Benzema rounded off the night with another superb effort to put…