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Teen gives Solari first triumph

China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-05 09:24
Real Madrid interim coach Santiago Solari during training in Madrid, Spain, on Oct 30, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

MADRID - Santiago Solari tasted victory in his first La Liga match in charge of Real Madrid, thanks to 18-year-old Vinicius Junior.

With the game scoreless and tension building at Santiago Bernabeu, Solari threw Vinicius on and the youngster orchestrated the winner before Sergio Ramos' late penalty in a 2-0 win over Real Valladolid.

Madrid's day might have been even better had Rayo Vallecano seen out the 2-1 lead it enjoyed over Barcelona with four minutes left at Vallecas.

Instead, Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez scored for Barca in the 87th and 89th minutes to pull off a remarkable comeback in the absence of Lionel Messi.

It means Ernesto Valverde's side sits four points clear at the top of La Liga, seven ahead of Real and now four up on Atletico Madrid, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Leganes.

For Real and Solari, victory was all-important. 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 Madrid's toothless attack has been so bereft of in recent weeks.

Vinicius celebrated by running over to the bench and hugging Solari, who managed him with Castilla earlier this season.

Previous coach Julen Lopetegui had, understandably, decided Madrid's B team was the best place for Vinicius to settle but with every chance missed, the youngster's reputation has swelled.

Lopetegui had repeatedly bemoaned a lack of luck during his bad run, and even that appeared to turn in Solari's favor. Vinicius' shot cannoned in off Olivas, twice hitting the crossbar and Karim Benzema winning a late penalty.

"When the ball won't go in you have to keep calm," Ramos said. "You have to ignore the uncertainty that is created. Finally, we have a positive result for our confidence."

Madrid, however, heads into Wednesday's Champions League game against Viktoria Plzen with its first win in six league matches, as well as its confidence boosted and its coach's momentum enhanced.

"This is an experienced group, not a bunch of kids," Solari said.

"They have found themselves."

Agence France-Presse


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