|Real Madrid (3)||Valencia (0)|
|Karim Benzema 61′ 86′|
Marco Asensio 74′
When will these Jekyll-and-Hyde performances from Valencia end? A quality first-half display quickly descended into a nightmare in the second as the team completely capitulated in the last 30 minutes against Real Madrid. Yet again, much of it was our own doing.
With Real Sociedad falling to Alaves in the early match, this was a golden opportunity for Valencia to make up some ground on their top-four rivals. Los Che also tend to raise their game in bigger matches. And against a title-chasing Los Blancos, it didn’t get any bigger than this.
True enough, the visitors came out raring to go, perhaps also stung by last week’s meek draw against Levante. Valencia were solid, aggressive, and even threatening. After weathering an early Madrid bombardment, they came back swinging with a few counterpunches. Striker Rodrigo Moreno struck the post, before having a goal ruled out by VAR.
There was probably a collective shudder from Valencia fans when Albert Celades chose the untested Hugo Guillamon and the untrusted Eliaquim Mangala as his central defensive pairing for the night. But the pair acquitted themselves well in the first half. Guillamon is the latest starlet to emerge from Valencia’s conveyor belt of homegrown talents, as the 20-year-old put in a collected display.
Although the teams were playing at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium at Madrid’s training complex, the first half was a quality La Liga match, packed with end-to-end action and high tempo from both sides. That was until Valencia decided to treat it like a training match after the break.
The first blow came from Karim Benzema, but the fault was ours. Kevin Gameiro gave away a loose ball to Eden Hazard, who charged up the field before laying it off for the Frenchman. Just 13 minutes later, an unmarked Marco Asensio made it two with a volley inside the box, before Benzema added his second goal of the night.
As if that was not enough, substitute Lee Kang-In earned a straight red after lashing out at Sergio Ramos in the dying minutes. The injury curse struck again, with Maxi Gomez and Francis Coquelin limping off the field as the full-time whistle blew. They are now doubts for the next match.
Nine games left and six points behind. We need a miracle to make top 4 now.