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La Liga: Casemiro header helps Real Madrid close gap on Atletico Madrid

Real Madrid made the most of Atletico Madrid’s surprise defeat to Levante to close the gap at the top of La Liga to just three points with a 1-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday night.

Mariano Diaz was handed a rare start for the defending Spanish champions with Karim Benzema sidelined through injury and Real Madrid struggled for cutting edge throughout the match.

Former Manchester United full back Saidy Janko should have opened the scoring for the hosts in the first half, but had a shot saved by Thibaut Courtois before Mariano had two goals disallowed for offside.

Courtois was called upon again to bail out his teammates after Ferland Mendy crossed a ball into his own penalty area. Fabian Orellana met it on the full volley, but couldn’t beat the Real Madrid number one.

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The breakthrough finally came after 65 minutes when Casemiro met a Toni Kroos freekick delivery into the box. Having spurned two good opportunities already, the Brazilian wasn’t about to pass up a third.

Victory for Zinedine Zidane’s side breathes new life into the title race at the top of La Liga, with Atletico Madrid’s stuttering form opening the door for both Barcelona and Real Madrid to mount a late challenge.

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