MADRID • Real Madrid manager 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 game's last kick.
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 win.
"I think we played a great game against PSG on Wednesday and today we had a lot of chances to finish the game before," he said. "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... 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 continue 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, who hammered Getafe 5-0, both played on Saturday after daunting trips away in Champions League action on Wednesday, while Barcelona and Valencia returned to action only yesterday despite playing on Tuesday. And Benitez called on the league authorities to help more.
"It was a surprise for us to play on Saturday just 21/2 days later," he said. "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."