MADRID, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Much criticized striker Karim Benzema was Real Madrid's hero as his side defeated Mallorca 1-0 in the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night.
The Frenchman, who this week was criticized by teammate Kaka and coach Jose Mourinho for his performances, scored the only goal of the game after 60 minutes.
Benzema received the ball in a crowd of players, but his quick footwork saw him fire a shot past Mallorca keeper Dudu Aouate.
Perhaps with one eye on his side's Copa del Rey semifinal away to Sevilla in the week, Real Madrid coach Mourinho introduced changes into his side with Esteban Granero and Fernando Gago starting in central midfield while Xabi Alonso rested.
The result was that Madrid controlled the ball in the first half against a Mallorca that sat deep, but failed to create clear chances.
Winger Angel Di Maria claimed a penalty in the opening seconds after tangling with Kevin Marquez on the edge of the Mallorca area, but the best chance of the half fell to Emilio N'Sue, who hit the Madrid post when he should have done better on a counter-attack.
The visitors were sitting deep and denying Madrid space, while looking to play on the break and the only other chance Madrid created in the first 45 minutes was a Marcelo shot that was deflected for a corner.
Mourinho reacted at the break by introducing Alonso and Mesut Ozil for the disappointing Kaka and Gago and his side's play became more vertical although it wasn't until the hour that Benzema scored what is only his second goal of the season.
Cristiano Ronaldo curled a free kick just wide and saw a header hit the top of the bar in the closing moments, but it was Benzema who missed the best chance as the game came to a close.
Aouate made a good save at Benzema's feet as the striker looked odds on to score his second of the night.
The miss was almost costly as Pierre Webo saw Iker Casillas saw his goalbound shot in the last minute of injury time, but as it is Madrid are again four points behind Barcelona.