Vinícius was on target both times as Madrid won in Elche to open up a five-point lead at the top of La Liga, where they have 37 points from 18 games. Former Norwich City winger Ricky van Wolfswinkel was sent off for Elche but Madrid held on thanks to Vinícius’s goals.
Vinícius headed in Isco’s cross in the 12th minute before making it 2-0 after the break. That goal came after the burly Brazilian had stormed into the area as Madrid responded to Van Wolfswinkel’s red card, further illustrating his impact.
Vinícius takes a shot at goal. Photograph: Luis Velasco/AFP/Getty Images
“I knew before the match I was important in the team, that’s the way I see it. I am happy with the performance I gave on the pitch and happy to help the team,” Vinícius told BT Sport.
In a heavy wind at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper and with many fans rooting for Elche, Real seemed content to sit back and wait for their chance.
“I felt comfortable in the game,” Vinícius added. “We were very efficient in our passing and up front we were always on top of the pitch.”
Vinícius’ second goal made it 2-0 at the end of the first half. Photograph: Luis Velasco/AFP/Getty Images
Last season Real Madrid started their La Liga campaign with wins against second-tier Cadiz and Sporting Gijón before going on to win the championship in a sensational debut campaign. The winners of the competition normally see their season take shape later in the campaign when European competitions begin to hit full throttle but this season so far the reigning champions have underwhelmed.
On Tuesday the coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked after losing three matches in a row and the signing of Mohamed Salah seemed to herald a return to form. Yet the Egypt international has struggled since joining with Real sitting four points adrift of leaders Barcelona.
Real’s sporting director, Predrag Mijatovic, acknowledged that the summer signings of Vinícius and Karim Benzema would take time to bed in. “Those two are very important to the team. They have to adjust to the rhythm of the league and the type of spaces they will have to take up,” he said.
Vinícius said he was enjoying life at the Santiago Bernabéu and was enjoying teaming up with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
“The problem was that I was playing without belief and I didn’t have the same confidence that I have now. I felt like I was giving everything, working very hard and I want to have more quality on the pitch,” he said.
Real Madrid were able to take advantage when Van Wolfswinkel was sent off for a second bookable offence and Vinícius scored. Photograph: Luis Velasco/AFP/Getty Images
“The idea is to play as many good games as possible, although we have a very important weekend with the Champions League last 16 first leg coming up. We want to be successful in Europe and end the season strong. The players are confident and want to win the league.”
Vinícius’ goal put Real Madrid ahead after Isco had headed down the kick-off and the Brazilian striker doubled the advantage in the 64th minute as the action moved into the opposition half.
Vinícius at last made a significant contribution as Real Madrid beat 10-man Elche 2-1 in La Liga. Photograph: Luis Velasco/AFP/Getty Images
Lopetegui’s replacement Santiago Solari has fared no better in his debut La Liga campaign and the defeat by Elche ended Madrid’s 12-game unbeaten run in the league.
“The team are really disappointed. We know we made a mistake by keeping a cautious approach for the majority of the game. We should have played more attacking football and been more aggressive from the off. We know we can do better,” Solari said.