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Impressive Vinicius inspires soaring Madrid against Alaves

9:06 am AEDT 4/2/19
Vinicius Real Madrid
The winger continues to shine with his side starting to find its stride

The pressure should be weighing down hard on Vinicius Junior, but the Brazilian has to have helium in his heels.

Far more experienced stars than the 18-year-old have wilted under the Santiago Bernabeu floodlights.

And yet, Vinicius shrugs it all off, going from strength-to-strength while operating as Cristiano Ronaldo’s de facto replacement in Real Madrid’s attacking trident.

The No. 28 rose above the rest again as Santiago Solari’s side beat Alaves 3-0 on Sunday. You can bet next season he’ll have a far lower number on the back of his shirt.

With the attacker increasingly settled in the side, Madrid have won four league games in a row and cut the gap on leaders Barcelona to eight points, and on second place Atletico to just two.

Madrid are now in their best form of the season, and with an upcoming double Clasico in the cup impending, the timing couldn't be any better.

Vinicius was involved in Karim Benzema’s opening goal, playing a perfectly judged precision pass down the line for Sergio Reguilon, who crossed for the Frenchman to score a tap-in.

Minutes later with confidence pumping through his veins he took the ball and just ran. Past one, past two, but not past a third as Victor Laguardia took him down and earned a yellow card for his troubles.

It would be reductive to say the Brazilian is only dangerous because of his pace, but it’s certainly a weapon that helps him get at defenders and throw backlines into utter panic.

Combined with a creative edge which makes him quite unpredictable, the Vinicius package draws a lot of heat from the defence and leaves Benzema, in particular, with welcome breathing room.

The French forward, who for the best part of a decade worked his hands to the bone to give Cristiano Ronaldo the same service and openings, is finally king, and it’s reflected in his form.

Lurking six yards out to tap home after 30 minutes, Benzema netted his sixth goal in four games, and his 10th of the season in La Liga.

Last season Benzema managed just five in 32 games, this season barring injury he could quadruple that figure, especially if defences can’t figure out how to shackle Vinicius.

Alaves struggled to, with the forward testing Fernando Pacheco’s wrists with a vicious strike.

Wakaso was booked in the second half for a lunge at Vinicius, another case of a defensive player realising the forward had him on toast and cynically cutting his dart short.

Eventually the striker got the goal his performance deserved, also answering the fair criticisms that he needs to be more lethal in front of goal.

Starting the move with a fine floated ball out to the right, it was Vinicius at the back post, in the right place at the right time, to stroke home after the ball fell into his path.

Just his second goal for Madrid in 11 La Liga appearances, albeit with six of them from the bench, of course he could stand to be more lethal.

It would be fairer, though, to talk about what he is offering the team, while players like Gareth Bale often let games pass them by.

The Welshman started against Alaves and was removed after an hour, having offered very little, incapable of providing the spark Madrid need, sparks which fly liberally from Vinicius’s boots.

Taken off in the final stages, Vinicius was afforded a standing ovation from Real Madrid supporters, and even with Mariano Diaz adding a third with an impressive diving header, it is the image of the grinning teen taking a seat on the bench - job done - which will live longest in the memory.