Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez lauded the impact of some of the lesser known members of his squad as Los Blancos moved three points clear in La Liga with a 3-1 at Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Early goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Danilo put Madrid on course for victory as they inflicted Celta’s first defeat of the season in a top of the table clash at Balaidos.
However, the visitors had to sweat out the latter stages as Nolito’s strike gave 10-man Celta hope before Marcelo sealed the points with the last kick of the game.
Casemiro, Jese Rodriguez and Lucas Vazquez were among those to start in the prolonged absence of the injured James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.
And having also just returned home from a demanding 0-0 draw with Paris Saint-Germain in the early hours of Thursday morning, Benitez was delighted to get a vital three points.
“I think we played a great game against PSG on Wednesday and today we had a lot of chances to finish the game before,” said the former Liverpool and Chelsea manager.
“In the end we had to suffer because we needed the third goal, but we have to take the positives which is to come to such a difficult place after Wednesday and get a great result.
“I think the absences we have has allowed us to evaluate the squad. The fact that with using different players the team continues to win is very positive. Not just for the results and the fact we remain unbeaten, but to reinforce the group knowing we can suffer and work hard.”
Madrid and Sevilla were both scheduled to play on Saturday after daunting trips away in Champions League action on Wednesday, while Barcelona and Valencia are in action on Sunday having played their Champions League clashes on Tuesday.
And Benitez called on the league authorities to help the Spanish sides in Europe more.
“It was a surprise for us to play on Saturday just two and half days later.
“Today we had to play, Sevilla had to play. I am convinced on other weeks the same will happen with other teams. When there is a European game there is little room for error.”
Madrid once again had goalkeeper Keylor Navas to thank in large part for the win as he continued his stellar season since a proposed move to Manchester United fell through to deny Celta in spectacular style three times before halftime.
“We have to congratulate him because he stopped three of four clear goals which I don’t know how he saved,” Nolito told Canal Plus.
“I am satisfied with the work of the team with 10 men. The sending-off was a shame but the team did everything even to get it back to 2-1.”