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Real Madrid's Marco Asensio thrills Zinedine Zidane with goal after layoff

Zinedine Zidane hailed the instant impact of Marco Asensio after the Real Madrid winger marked his return from an 11-month injury layoff with a goal and an assist in their 3-0 La Liga win over Valencia on Thursday.

Asensio, 24, needed just 31 seconds on the pitch to score with his first touch after coming on as a substitute at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium for his first appearance of the season.

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"It means a lot, above all for him," Zidane said in his postmatch news conference. "We're happy to have Marco back on the pitch, but above all we're happy for him after 11 months out. To see him score a great goal with his first touch. He was really happy just to get on. He has the quality to do this kind of thing."

The winger ruptured his cruciate knee ligaments in July 2019 during an International Champions Cup game with Arsenal in Landover, Maryland.

"I was really looking forward to coming back," Asensio said. "I felt a lot of emotion and satisfaction. There's a lot of hard work behind this. The most important thing is I feel good and we won, and I'm back for the rest of the season."

The result -- Real Madrid's second win in two games since La Liga resumed last week after a three-month break -- means the club remains two points behind leaders Barcelona with nine games left to play.

"We only depend on what we're going to do," Zidane said when asked if he expects Barca to drop points away at Sevilla on Friday. "We know the situation. I'll watch Sevilla-Barcelona, but I'm not thinking about Barca dropping points there. I remember the only league I won as a coach [in 2017], it went to the last game in Malaga. It's all about us."

The French coach was also full of praise for striker Karim Benzema, who has now scored 16 goals in La Liga this season, and especially his extraordinary late volley from an Asensio assist that completed the 3-0 victory.

"It was a real golazo," Zidane said. "He was magnificent, just like the whole team. It wasn't easy to take the ball with his left foot, without it touching the ground. It's a really difficult move. Karim is Real Madrid's number nine and he has to score goals, but he does a lot more than that. So when he scores goals as well, we're all really pleased."

Benzema said: "It all happened so fast. It was a cross from Marco, I controlled it well, and then I shot with my left foot and it went in. It sounds easy when I explain it, but it's about acting quickly."

Real Madrid are next in action on Sunday night when they travel to Real Sociedad, before hosting Real Mallorca next Wednesday.