Courtois: Madrid have to ‘protect’ Vinicius on pitch

Thibaut Courtois said Real Madrid teammate Vinicius Junior needs more protection after the forward was the victim of a wild tackle from Valencia’s Gabriel Paulista in their 2-0 LaLiga win on Thursday.

Defender Gabriel was shown a straight red card for the challenge, which came in the 72nd minute at the Santiago Bernabeu with Valencia already 2-0 down to goals from Marco Asensio and Vinicius.

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Madrid’s victory leaves them five points behind leaders Barcelona at the top of the table.

“We have to protect Vini,” Courtois said, speaking post-match. “He’s very expressive on the pitch, he takes players on and defenders don’t like that.”

“It’s his technique, his way of playing,” Courtois added. “We need this Vinicius to open up defences, I think he’s been kicked a lot and today I’m glad that a referee was brave enough to send [Gabriel] off. The ball had gone, that has to be a sending off.”

Vinicius’ goal was his 50th for Real Madrid, in his 200th competitive game for the club.

“His physical level is impressive,” coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “He’s a player who suffers a lot. In the second half he made more runs without the ball, getting in behind [the defence], that makes the difference.

“Opponents end the game exhausted. He keeps trying and trying, he doesn’t stop.”

Ancelotti described Gabriel’s challenge as “a moment of frustration, which can happen sometimes in football.”

Madrid are now waiting on medical tests on Eder Militao and Karim Benzema, after both players were substituted with injury concerns.

“[Militao’s] is a bit more serious than Karim’s,” Ancelotti said. “We’ll look at Karim’s tomorrow, but Militao won’t be with us on Sunday [against Real Mallorca] for sure.”

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