Valencia hosted Real Madrid last night in what was definitely an exciting fixture filled with talking points from the first minute to the last. The hosts have gone through a massive summer overhaul in which they saw most of their first team starters sold off in a firesale in order to balance out the finances at the club, among other things. They desperately needed a win tonight, languishing at 16th, just 1 point away from the relegation zone.
Their guests tonight were the reigning champions of Spain and fierce domestic rivals, Real Madrid, who came in with some trouble of their own.
Real Madrid have failed to record victory at the Mestalla since Cristiano Ronaldo inspired them to victory here in 2018 before his departure to Juventus. Real Madrid have not been able to field a full-strength squad since their group stage fixtures in the Champions League last season, and the never-ending barrage of unavailable players seemed to continue for tonight as well.
Real Madrid were missing Eden Hazard, Casemiro and Eder Militao with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Odriozola and Nacho continued to miss out with their respective injuries, leaving Lucas Vasquez as the only viable option to be fielded at right back.
The depleted defence, looked extremely weary after their battle against Inter Milan last Wednesday, and it showed as all 4 Valencia goals came from errors from each of the defenders fielded tonight.
The game started off at a mellow pace with neither goalkeeper being tested for the first 10 minutes of the encounter.
It was the away side who took the lead initially through Karim Benzema who scored an absolutely sensational goal to continue his rich vein of form for Los Blancos. He was given ample time and space after being found in space by Marcelo to rifle in a thunderbolt past Domenech into the top right corner.
The hosts responded almost instantaneously as Gaya managed to get himself on the end of a chip forward by Carlos Soler, and the left back's cross was blocked by Lucas Vasquez with the help of his arms and the referee had no choice but to award the penalty.
The penalty was saved initally by Courtois, the rebound was smashed against the post by Soler but tapped in eventually by Yunus Musah.
The goal, inititally given, was disallowed, as Yunus was adjuged to have been in motion while the spot kick was taken, which meant that it was to be retaken. After more than 6 minutes of visible confusion across everyone's face, a retake was ordered. That levelled the game for Valencia and after that blow of having a saved penalty being retaken due to an opponent's error, Madrid never recovered.
An own goal by Raphael Varane despite his best attempts to clear the ball following a right wing cross from Maxi Gomez was enough to send Madrid down by a goal at half time.
The second half saw Real Madrid almost concede a screamer from Kang-In Lee, but he was denied by the fingertips of Courtois and the post. Soon after that though, Marcelo hacked down Maxi Gomez to hand Valencia their second (rather third) penalty of the night.
10 minutes later, it was captain Sergio Ramos, who handled the ball in the box under a challenge from Musah and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot. Carlos Soler finished his hat-trick of penalties in the neatest of fashions and handed Valencia a lead they would never surrender.
#1 VAR Drama takes center stage again:
It feels like fans of every league are forced to go through this week in andweek out with the uncertainty of how the rules are being implemented and what exactly are or aren't the limitations of VAR, and when it can be called into use.
Tonight was no different, as VAR ruled the penalty that was saved by Courtois to be re-taken as a Valencia player was found infringing the rules. The other two interventions tonight were quite spot on though with the Varane own goal and the Sergio Ramos incident around the hour mark of the game.
The irregularities are ever prevalent for a piece of technology that was introduced to make the experience better for everyone but in the end the bumpiness of this ride is not being appreciated by most at this point.
#2 The Valencia Voodo continues for Real Madrid:
Real Madrid have failed to take away all three points from this fixture here since Ronaldo left. Real Madrid is yet to truly replace the God-like output that the Portugese phenom was capable of week in-week out.
Add to that the fact that the team is facing a crisis in terms of defensive personnel as the minutes are, atleast right now, being shared amongst only 5 individuals, and sooner or later, they're bound to make mistakes.
The International break has come at a much needed time for a select few in the Real Madrid squad but for the others it's just more of 2-3 games a week with little to no rest.