Vázquez secures victory as Los Blancos strike late

Lucas heads the ball in to give the Los Blancos the win away to Alaves
Lucas Vázquez’s late header earned Real Madrid a 1-0 win over Deportivo Alavés and took Los Blancos top of the table in La Liga (LL), providing the perfect end to 2023 for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

Los Blancos showed early intent with Brahim Díaz orchestrating a move forward that culminated in Federico Valverde seeing his shot saved.

Alavés provided an early threat of their own, though, as Jon Guridi’s cutback found Luis Rioja, whose first-time effort required an intelligent block from Fran García. Having played a key role in limiting his parent club during the opening 20 minutes, Rafa Marín had an opening of his own in front of goal but headed straight at Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Despite the visitors’ possession, El Glorioso continued to have the better chances with Jude Bellingham blocking another strike from Rioja before Vázquez’s misjudged clearance resulted in Samu Omorodion rising above Nacho Fernández for a header that was saved.

Even with Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić making attempts, Real Madrid struggled to split Alavés’ stubborn backline and Valverde resorted to two strikes from range before the break that were both denied.

Alavés came out of the break strongly and were offered further encouragement in the 54th minute, when Nacho Fernández was sent off for going through the back of Samu, even if they didn’t carry much of an attacking threat after that point.

Real Madrid moved the ball patiently as the half continued, although they struggled to work Antonio Sivera at all. Kroos finally released Rodrygo with a quarter-hour remaining and the Brazilian glided into the box, but cut in and sent his effort off-target.

Just as it looked as though Alavés would hold onto a point, the visitors struck in the 92nd minute, when Kroos’ inch-perfect corner delivery was met by Vázquez, who headed in his first goal of the season to capitalise on Girona’s draw against Real Betis and take his side top of the Laliga table.

Alavés, meanwhile, suffered a third consecutive defeat despite coming so close to securing a memorable point.

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