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Madrid up to 2nd with Benzema brace in 3-1 win at Celta

Karim Benzema netted twice to extend his scoring streak as Real Madrid moved second in the Spanish league with a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Toni Kroos set up Benzema for both his early goals at Balaídos Stadium.

Kroos slipped a short pass through two defenders to leave Benzema alone to beat goalkeeper Iván Villar in the 20th. The Germany midfielder gave his French striker a second opportunity on the half-hour mark when he stole the ball from Renato Tapia near Celta’s goal.

Real Madrid's head coach Zinedine Zidane gives instructions during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Celta and Real Madrid at the Balaidos stadium in Vigo, Spain, Saturday March 20, 2021. (AP PhotoLalo R.Villar)

Celta improved after its shaky start. Striker Santi Mina pulled one back with a header five minutes before halftime. Iago Aspas drew a save from Thibaut Courtois in the 62nd and the striker’s free kick hit the post with eight minutes to play.

Benzema crossed for Marco Asensio to complete the win on the last kick of the match.

Benzema has scored eight goals in a six-match scoring run over all competitions. He scored in Madrid’s 3-1 win over Atalanta on Tuesday to help lead Madrid into the Champions League quarterfinals. He got another brace last weekend to lead a 2-1 comeback victory over Elche.

Celta Vigo's Iago Aspas, left, controls the ball in front of Real Madrid's Casemiro during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Celta and Real Madrid at the Balaidos stadium in Vigo, Spain, Saturday March 20, 2021. (AP PhotoLalo R.Villar)

Madrid moved one point above Barcelona before it plays at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Leader Atlético Madrid is three points ahead of Madrid before hosting Alavés on Sunday.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Celta Vigo's Santi Mina celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Celta and Real Madrid at the Balaidos stadium in Vigo, Spain, Saturday March 20, 2021. (AP PhotoLalo R.Villar)

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Celta and Real Madrid at the Balaidos stadium in Vigo, Spain, Saturday March 20, 2021. (AP PhotoLalo R.Villar)

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, 2nd left, celebrates with Ferland Mendy, left and Lucas Vazquez after scoring his side's second goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Celta and Real Madrid at the Balaidos stadium in Vigo, Spain, Saturday March 20, 2021. (AP PhotoLalo R.Villar)

Celta Vigo's goalkeeper Ivan Villar dives but fails to stop the opening goal scored by Real Madrid's Karim Benzema during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Celta and Real Madrid at the Balaidos stadium in Vigo, Spain, Saturday March 20, 2021. (AP PhotoLalo R.Villar)

Celta Vigo's Nolito, centre, falls between Real Madrid's Casemiro and Nacho during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Celta and Real Madrid at the Balaidos stadium in Vigo, Spain, Saturday March 20, 2021. (AP PhotoLalo R.Villar)