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Tchouameni sends Real Madrid top in late win at Las Palmas



 Aurelien Tchouameni’s towering header earned Real Madrid a late 2-1 victory at Las Palmas and sent them top of La Liga on Saturday.

Las Palmas took the lead through Javier Munoz early in the second half but Madrid came back with Vinicius Junior levelling before Tchouameni’s winner, on his birthday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side lead Girona by two points at the top of the table with 21 games played each, although the Catalan minnows visit Celta Vigo on Sunday and can reclaim top spot.

Champions Barcelona, third, host Villarreal later Saturday, needing a victory to avoid losing ground on Los Blancos after their comeback in Gran Canaria.

Ancelotti brought on Tchouameni just three minutes before he scored the winning goal.

“I look at the bench and I have chances to change the dynamic,” the Italian coach told reporters.

“It’s a tool that we have, with such a motivated bench, they bring a lot when they come on.”

Madrid were without leading goalscorer Jude Bellingham, suspended, replaced by Brahim Diaz, while Ancelotti also handed Dani Ceballos a rare start in midfield.

In a first half of few chances, Las Palmas left-back Sergi Cardona was the biggest source of danger.

The defender was lightly clipped by Dani Ceballos in the area but the referee did not point to the spot, and Cardona smashed narrowly over a few minutes later.

Vinicius had a couple of off-target efforts for Madrid at the other end but Las Palmas goalkeeper Alvaro Valles went largely untroubled.

Promoted Las Palmas, eighth, have exceeded expectations under former Barcelona reserves coach Francisco Garcia Pimienta, and for large periods they gave Madrid as good as they got.

It was a clash between the division’s best two defences but the stalemate was broken early in the second half.

Munoz finished a neat counter-attack after Kirian Rodriguez freed Sandro Ramirez down the right with a well-judged pass.

The former Barcelona forward crossed for Munoz, whose low effort deflected in off Nacho Fernandez.

Dani Carvajal had a goal ruled out for offside before Vinicius levelled for Madrid.

The Brazilian fired a good chance over the bar but redeemed himself by levelling in the 65th minute.

Eduardo Camavinga chipped a pass over the defence for Vinicius, who drilled past Valles from a tight angle.

Ancelotti, chasing a winner, sent on Turkish attacker Arda Guler for his La Liga debut and match-winner Tchouameni.

The French midfielder netted only his second goal for the club with a superb header from Toni Kroos’ corner with six minutes remaining.

Madrid have taken full advantage of set pieces in La Liga, with this just the latest in a string of goals from corners they have scored this season.

“We have to be proud, we competed, congratulations to Real Madrid,” said Las Palmas midfielder Munoz.

“They went behind and we knew they would come forward, we sat deeper, as a result, and they reacted.”

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