The first VAR incident of the evening came in the sixth minute on a lovely bit of play, when Rodrygo slipped a ball through the Elche line to Vinícius Jr., who crossed the ball to an open Karim Benzema. The newly crowned Ballon d’Or winner then slotted it home, but the goal was reviewed and Vinícius was judged to be the tiniest of margins offside.
Federico Valverde then gave Madrid the lead over bottom dweller Elche in the 11th minute when the Uruguayan deftly controlled Vinícius’ blocked shot before powerfully finishing past Edgar Badía.
VAR’s second involvement of the game came in the 26th minute when David Alaba played a wonderful pair of give-and-goes with Toni Kroos and then Benzema before firing past the outstretched leg of Badía. Unfortunately for Los Blancos – who were draped in a black kit on the night – the video assistant referee ruled that the Frenchman was offside by a razor-thin margin.
The decision gave Elche some life as the host went on the break in the 29th minute with Nico Fernández firing a powerful, low effort on the edge of the box which had to be saved by Madrid substitute keeper Andriy Lunin.
While Madrid dominated most of the first half, Elche came out of the gates in the second half, pushing for an equalizer, when VAR made its final appearance of the night.
Toni Kroos made a pinpoint pass in the 60th minute to Dani Carvajal on the right, who crossed the ball into a ready Benzema, who calmly controlled the cross on his chest and kicked it into the back of the net. Once again though, the review showed that Carvajal was just slightly offside, leading to some frustrated faces amongst the traveling Madrid faithful.
It is the first time in La Liga history that a team has had three goals disallowed in a single match due to VAR.
Elche almost leveled the match when Carlos Clerc’s header was fantastically saved by Lunin in the 70th, but the Ballon d’Or winner and Madrid finally put the game to bed in the 75th when Benzema played a give-and-go with Rodrygo to put the La Liga leaders up 2-0. An exasperated Benzema celebrated by mockingly drawing a square with his fingers, imitating the way referees call for VAR reviews.
Madrid closed out the scoreline in the 89th when Aurélien Tchouaméni played Rodrygo through the backline with a great pass, before the Brazilian crossed it to Marco Asensio, who stretched out his right leg to catch the ball and put it past Badía.
“It was a big game because the level could have dropped a bit after the Clásico,” manager Carlo Ancelotti said after the match. “I didn’t want to make any more excuses with the rotation. The team performed well, they were very focused and we had a lot of mobility up front. The game was open until the 70th minute and it could have got difficult.”
“It’s an important stage of the season because the team is playing well. We’re strong out on the pitch and don’t have any issues,” he said, adding that he predicted Thibaut Courtois will be back on Saturday and Dani Ceballos would be returning soon. “We have to make the most of this situation. We have to play a lot of games and have plenty of options available not just in the starting 11.”
Madrid hosts Sevilla on Saturday at the Santiago Bernabéu.