Real Madrid lost vital ground on leaders Barcelona as they were held at home by Valencia in a result that all but guarantees that the title goes to the Catalans. the Los Blancos hit the woodwork thrice and Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty in an eventful first half which saw fourth-placed Valencia take a 2-0 lead.Paco Alcacer gave the visitors the lead and Javi Fuego’s header doubled it within seven minutes. But the hosts dominated the ball and created the bulk of the chances. Pepe’s header brought the deficit down to one and Isco curled in a brilliant strike from 20 yards to level the score. But Real could not get the goal they needed to win and the result now leaves them four points behind Barcelona with just two games to go.Here are the major talking points from the game.
#1 Diego Alves: the toast of Barcelona
There are times when you think and wonder why anybody would want to be a goalkeeper. Irrespective of how well you play throughout the game, one lapse in concentration or misjudgement will be enough to put your head on the chopping block. And then there are days like Diego Alves enjoyed against Real. Days in which you feel as though nothing can get past you.
Aside from the penalty save, the Brazilian shot-stopper made a few world-class saves and showed just why he deserves his place in the league's Team of the Year, which is still to be decided soon. Even though he was beaten by Pepe, the amount of times, the Brazilian came to his side's rescue was simply phenomenal and if Valencia qualify for the Champions League, it will be thanks in no small part to the brilliance of Alves between the posts.
#2 Ronaldo proves he is human after all
Ronaldo’s records have been nothing short of phenomenal. Coming into the game against Valencia, he had scored at least 50 goals in each of his last five seasons and was looking to moving into second place on the list of Real Madrid's all-time leading goal scorers above the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano. Prior to this game, the Portuguese forward had scored in each of his last four matches against Valencia and you would have put your money on him making it five out of five.
Yet, it wasn't to be his day. He missed a penalty and looked slightly off colour on a day in which his side needed him most. While the miss might have ended the club's hopes of claiming their first league title in three years, the Champions League is still within reach.
#3 Juventus game takes on greater significance
Despite the five-point gap between themselves and Barcelona with three games to go, there was a sense that all Real Madrid had to do was win their games, because the Catalans had a game against Atletico Madrid next. But the draw has all but handed the title to Luis Enrique's side and means that the game against Juventus on Wednesday takes on even greater significance.
The only way Carlo Ancelotti is going to survive in his job is if he retains the Champions League. While one league title in seven years doesn't make for great reading, becoming the first side to retain the Champions League will certainly be enough to guarantee the Italian manager more time to figure out how best to accommodate the galaxy of stars at his disposal.
#4 Valencia could have walked away with three points
Having already beaten Real Madrid at home,Valencia came to the Bernabeu hoping to do the double over the reigning European champions. Had Alvaro Negredo buried his chance late in the game, Nuno Esprito Santos side might well have done just that. Instead, they had to be content with a point, which was made possible thanks to their excellent tactics. While their 2-1 victory at the Mestalla in January was based on having their centre-backs man-mark Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo, their approach on Saturday was considerably different.
By making use of a4-1-4-1 formation, they had four midfielders who could help Alcacer in pressing high up the pitch and winning the ball. And once they took a 2-0 lead, the formation allowed them to stay compact and close to their goal. While the pressure mounted as the minutes ticked by, the counter attack was always still on and if the on-loan Manchester City forward had done his job, they would have walked away with all three points and a legitimate shot at finishing third.
#5 Real fail to apply finishing touch
They say you only truly realise the value of something when you lose it. And that has certainly been the case with Karim Benzema as the Frenchman's role in this Real Madrid has become abundantly clear over the last two games. While he isn't always appreciated, the French striker does a job that not many in the world are capable of.
Despite having Javier Hernandez, one of the most lethal finishers in Europe, the Los Blancos struggled to score the goal that would have still kept them in the title race. The hosts cannot afford to be as wasteful on Wednesday when they take on Juventus in a game that might just see the return of Benzema, who wasn't even on the bench against Valencia.