MADRID • Santiago Solari tasted victory in his first Spanish LaLiga match in charge of Real Madrid, but he had the 18-year-old Vinicius Junior to thank for their 2-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday.
Solari threw Vinicius on with the score goal-less in the 74th minute and tension building at the Santiago Bernabeu and the teenage striker delivered, before Sergio Ramos' late penalty gave the scoreline a deceptively comfortable look.
The opener in the 83rd minute was an own goal, deflected off Kiko Olivas, but prompted by Vinicius' weaving run and shot, the kind of exuberance Real's toothless attack has been so bereft of in recent weeks.
"I thought of scoring," Vinicius told Real Madrid TV when asked what he was thinking when he entered the fray. "When I had the ball, I thought I could score. I counted 'one, two, three', and shot hard.
"We needed this victory. Little by little, we need to add more and return to where we belong. It's important to get back there."
Solari knows the youngster better than anyone at the club, having managed him at Castilla this season, but the Argentinian is careful not to let the hype get to his young head.
"It's fantastic that people are excited, but Vinicius has his whole career ahead and judgments will be made in time," said Solari. "I told him to be bold and to take people on, which is what he knows how to do. I also told him to defend, which he needs to be reminded about."
Real were far from their best and Solari said of the scrappy win: "We needed to win, and you don't get out of tough moments like the one we are in by winning easily.
"I would like to win every game 7-0 with three bicycle-kick goals, but football is more complicated than that.
"You have moments of beauty when everything goes well and delicate times when you have to be organised, serious and show competitive spirit."
The win lifted Real from ninth to sixth place in the standings on 17 points - seven behind leaders Barcelona, who needed late goals from Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez to earn a hard-fought 3-2 win at struggling Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
Suarez admitted that an over-confident Barcelona must "self-evaluate" after being outshone by valiant Vallecano, who took more shots and made more dribbles.
"It may be that there was an excess of confidence," said the Uruguayan, who racked up six goals and three assists in his last six games as the injured Lionel Messi stays sidelined.
"We also have to give credit to the opponents, who are in need of points. The important thing was that we turned it around and got the three points, now we have to self-evaluate."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS