Valencia hold 10-man Real Madrid to 2-2 draw at Mestalla
Valencia and Real Madrid played out a 2-2 draw at the Mestalla Stadium on Sunday night to leave Rafa Benitez’s side four points behind La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid. Goals from Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale were canceled out by Dani Parejo and Paco Alcacer while Mateo Kovacic was sent off in the second half. Los Che came back twice n the game to erase Madrid’s lead but are still in the hunt to give Gary Neville his first win in Spain.
With Alvaro Negredo not completely fit to start, Gary Neville put him on the bench with Spain international Paco Alcacer deployed up front. The visitors had the trio of Bale-Benzema-Cristiano (aka BBC) start the game in spite of earlier reports stating Benzema was a doubtful starter. James Rodriguez was benched (maybe after he got into trouble with the law?) while Mateo Kovacic started in midfield alongside Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
Valencia: Domenech, Barragan, Abdennour, Santos, Orban, Parejo, Gomes, Danilo, Cancelo, De Paul, Alcacer
Real Madrid: Navas, Danilo, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo, Modric, Kroos, Kovacic, Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema
First Half: BBC combine to score but Valencia score late equaliser
Valencia had won only one of their last 12 games against Real Madrid in La Liga and it was the capital club that had the early runnings. Full back Danilo had the first shot in the fifth minute when Benzema found him making a run but his shot sailed over the crossbar.
Paco Alcacer then had a penalty claim waved away when he was brought down in the box as Pepe and Keylor Navas tried to go for a 50-50 ball with Alcacer in between them. But to the referee’s credit, it was only the fans who screamed for a penalty.
Rafa Benitez’s side then took the lead against his former club with BBC combining beautifully in the 16th minute. Karim Benzema started the move by finding Gareth Bale just outside the box. The Welshman calmly flicked it forward to Cristiano Ronaldo, thereby taking two defenders out of the equation. Ronaldo then looked one way before laying the ball back in Benzema’s path and the striker finished with aplomb to get his 12th goal of the season.
After taking the lead, it was Madrid who seemed happy with keeping possession. But Los Che troubled the Madrid defence time and again, as they looked to get a first league win under new boss Gary Neville.
Towards the end of the half, it was all Valencia as Joao Cancelo first missed a header from near the six-yard box before Andre Gomes’s shot was deflected for a corner kick. Aymen Abdennour also came close from the corner before Pepe cleared. Even Alcacer had a shot that was deflected wide.
Valencia were finally rewarded at the stroke of half-time as Gomes’s persistence paid off. A run into the box induced Madrid centre-back Pepe into a tackle and he ended up bringing him down. The referee did not hesitate in pointing to the spot and Pepe also went into his book.
Dani Parejo stepped up and sent Navas the wrong way to give Valencia the equaliser with a low shot to end the half with the score reading 1-1.
Second Half: Real Madrid reduced to 10 men
The restart saw Real Madrid win a free-kick in dangerous territory after only three minutes. Both Ronaldo and Bale stood over the ball before the Welshman, surprisingly, took the free-kick. But his effort was well over the bar. Danilo also made a good run down the right flank but there was nobody at the end of his cross to convert.
Marcelo and Antonio Barragan then got into a slight tussle after the Madrid full-back ran straight into the Spaniard and demanded a penalty. When the referee disagreed with him, Barragan then threw himself to the ground in an attempt to get Marcelo sent off but only got a bemused look from the referee and Madrid players. Barragan eventually got a yellow card for a foul on Sergio Ramos at the other end.
Benitez then took off Benzema for Lucas Vazquez in the 68th minute but the game took a turn for the worse for the Spanish boss two minutes later. First Ronaldo was denied a penalty after he claimed he was bundled over in the box by Abdennour when he tried to avoid a sliding Domenech. Seconds later, Mateo Kovacic was sent off for a straight red card after his sliding tackle on Joao Cancelo was mistimed.
Down to 10 men with 20 minutes to go, Real Madrid were struggling as Valencia smelt blood. Looking for a win, Neville brought on Rodrigo for Lucas Orban. But it was Real Madrid who then took the lead from a set piece. Toni Kroos’s free-kick was whipped into the box and Gareth Bale managed to get his header past Domenech to find the back of the net.
But the lead lasted less than a minute as Valencia equalised again in the 83rd minute as the two Rodrigos combined to allowed Paco Alcacer to score. Rodrigo de Paul’s cross found Rodrigo in front of goal but instead of going for goal, he squared it to Alcacer who was unmarked a couple of yards from goals and onside to head past a hapless Navas to make it 2-2.
Neville then decided to bring on Alvaro Negredo late in the game and the striker almost scored in the dying seconds on a counter-attack. But with only the goalkeeper to beat, Navas managed to make a save at he edge of the box to deny Neville an important win. Bale had the last kick of the game on another counter but he skied the effort and the referee blew the whistle for full time.