In-form Valverde gave Real the lead in the 11th minute with a brilliant technical strike from the edge of the area. Benzema extended Real’s lead in the 75th minute after neat interplay with Rodrygo, who assisted Benzema with a clever back-heel pass.
The defending league champions dominated the game throughout and had several chances other than the three efforts ruled out, one by David Alaba and two from Benzema.
Substitute Asensio added the third one minute from time, firing home a close-range finish from Rodrygo’s cross.
1. No post-Clasico, Ballon d’Or dips for Madrid and Benzema
Three days after Madrid’s biggest game of the season so far and two days after the signature moment of Karim Benzema’s career to date, both the team and its star player came out against Elche with an intensity and purpose worthy of the biggest occasions.
There was not a hint of the relaxation that might be expected after a 3-1 Clasico win over Barcelona, or the personal triumph of Benzema’s long-awaited Ballon d’Or coronation. Instead, Elche were subjected to an onslaught that left the bottom-of-the-table side reeling. First Benzema’s gorgeous team goal was disallowed in the 6th minute, then Federico Valverde scored his screamer five minutes later, and 15 minutes after that David Alaba finished off an even better move, only for Benzema to be flagged offside.
At hal-time, it was remarkable that Elche were still in the game despite being a goal down. Benzema was once again caught offside with an hour played, and when he finally scored in the 75th minute — set up by Rodrygo’s backheel — there was even time for a joke with referee Jesus Gil Manzano about another possible offside call. This was a relentless performance from Madrid and Benzema. Both will take some stopping this season.
2. Valverde’s goals just keep coming
Whatever kind of player you thought Valverde might become — a deep-lying, holding midfielder like Casemiro perhaps, or a hyperactive box-to-box player in the mold of Steven Gerrard — you probably didn’t think he’d turn into a goal machine. Valverde has now scored six goals this season — only Vinicius Junior has more for Madrid — which is as many as he’d scored in the previous four years.
He scored in three games in a row in September, and now he’s followed a goal in Sunday’s Clasico with the opener here. Carlo Ancelotti said earlier this season that if Valverde didn’t get into double figures, he should tear up his coaching licence. He’s already over halfway there. It’s notable how many of Valverde’s goals come from outside the box, and he can score with either foot, too, as this left-footed effort on the bounce showed. He could have had another late on, bursting into the box, only to be denied by an exceptional save by Edgar Badia.
Toni Kroos thinks he’s one of the three best players in the world right now. That might be a slight exaggeration. But not by much. Valverde didn’t make the Ballon d’Or shortlist this year, but don’t be surprised to see him there before too long.
3. Lunin deserves credit before Courtois return
This was likely the end to goalkeeper Andriy Lunin‘s run in the first team, with Thibaut Courtois expected to return from injury in time to face Sevilla this weekend. If so, then Lunin deserves praise for performing admirably in the number one’s absence. He’s been so solid, in fact — although no doubt the team’s defensive solidity as a whole has helped enormously — that Courtois’ absence has hardly been felt.
One save here in particular, a second-half point-blank stop from Carlos Clerc‘s header, came with the game still in the balance. The 23-year-old has kept clean sheets against Getafe and Elche, and the team come out of his time between the posts on top of LaLiga and qualified for the Champions League round-of-16. Whenever Lunin’s next opportunity comes, he’s shown he’s ready to take it.
Elche: Edgar Badia 6; Helibelton Palacios 5, Gonzalo Verdu 6, Pedro Bigas 6, Carlos Clerc 6; Omar Mascarell 6; Tete Morente 5, Raul Guti 6, Pere Milla 5, Nicolas Mercau 6; Lucas Boye 6.
Subs: Josan 5, Gerard Gumbau 5, Ezequiel Ponce 5, Domingos Quina 6.
Real Madrid: Andriy Lunin 8; Dani Carvajal 7, Eder Militao 7, Antonio Rudiger 7, David Alaba 7; Toni Kroos 7, Federico Valverde 8, Luka Modric 7; Rodrygo Goes 8, Vinicius Junior 7, Karim Benzema 9.
Subs: Aurelien Tchouameni 7, Eduardo Camavinga 6, Marco Asensio 7, Lucas Vazquez 6, Nacho 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Karim Benzema, Real Madrid.
Back to his best and could have had a hat trick were it not for those tight — but correct — offside calls.
WORST: Helibelton Palacios, Elche.
None of the Elche defenders had an enjoyable evening up against a fluid Madrid attack, but Palacios was probably the worst of them.
Highlights and notable moments
How do you celebrate after seeing two goals overruled by VAR? By signaling for it yourself! Well done by Benzema.
Benzema scored and did the VAR celebration after 3 of Real Madrid’s goals were ruled out today 😂 pic.twitter.com/lDjwTJR1NN
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 19, 2022
And then a Zen-like (or Haaland-esque) celebration for Valverde after his stunning goal.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) October 19, 2022
All in all, a solid performance by the champs.
After the match: What the managers, players said
Valverde on his scoring prowess: “[Ancelotti] said I had to score 10 goals [this season]. I’m focused on doing it, it’s a good kind of pressure. I don’t want him to have to retire as a manager! It’s helped me to feel confident in front of goal.”
Ancelotti on playing so soon after Clasico: “I was worried about this game, it was important, because after the Clasico you could think the level could drop, I wanted to rotate but didn’t want to give them excuses, the team played well, focused, in attack it was very good, we had a lot of mobility. But until the 70th minute the game was open, they could have equalised.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– Karim Benzema (224) is now three goals shy of tying Alfredo Di Stéfano (227) for sixth-place on the all-time LaLiga top scorers list. The top five? Lionel Messi (474), Cristiano Ronaldo (311), Telmo Zarra (251), Hugo Sanchez (234) and Raul (228).
– Carlo Ancelotti managed his 124th LaLiga game today, breaking a tie with Claudio Ranieri for the most by an Italian manager.
– Now winless in 10 games to start the season, Elche are facing a serious battle to avoid relegation. The only team to overcome a such a streak and remain in the top-flight was Real Valladolid in the 1982-83 season (13 winless games).
Real Madrid: Back at the Bernabeu for another LaLiga fixture on Saturday as Sevilla come to town. Then back to Champions League action with a trip to RB Lepzig next Tuesday.
Elche: The quest for their first LaLiga win continues, this time against Espanyol on Sunday.