In a thrilling night of football, Real Madrid drew 1-1 with Valencia at Mestalla.
Los Blancos started the better of the two sides but Valencia eventually took control of the game and even went ahead. Madrid kept on pushing, however, and nabbed a last-second equaliser. Who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Karim Benzema
Karim Benzema is fighting for the Pichichi will Leo Messi. Last week he took a decisive advantage only for Messi to take the lead with a hat-trick. This week Messi was held scoreless in San Sebastian, giving Benzema a chance to pull level on 12 goals against Valencia.
And Benzema started the game like a man determined to score. He moved supremely between the lines, he started plays, he linked with team-mates and he tried to show up and bag the finishing touch. But he couldn’t get any satisfaction at Mestalla.
That is until the 95th minute when Thibaut Courtois (no, seriously) headed a corner goalwards. Jaume Domenech made the save but after a defensive scramble the ball fell his way and Benzema did not hesitate. The Frenchman thrashed the ball into the roof of the net to draw Real Madrid level on the night, level on points with Barcelona and level in the Pichichi with Leo Messi. A triple equaliser!
Loser: Ezequiel Garay
When your side is leading 1-0 against Real Madrid and it’s the 95th minute and your goalkeeper has made loads of big saves including just a second ago from Thibaut Courtois of all people and the ball rebounds to you and you’ve already made a game-high 7 clearances and 3 blocks and have played stupendously and denied Madrid time and time again with your canny play of course everyone will expect you to get the ball away by hook or by crook and of course that’s what will happen right because honestly what else could you do in such a situation?
A backheel? Straight into the path of an unmarked Karim Benzema? Allowing him to equalise?
No, surely? No one would actually do that?
Wait, yes, Ezequiel Garay did in fact do exactly that.
Winner: Carlos Soler
Carlos Soler is a supreme attacking midfield talent who has shown a knack for scoring big goals prior to this season. But his 2019/20 so far has been blighted by injury. But today he was back in the line-up and out wide, stretching Real Madrid.
Valencia went down the right far more than the left as they tried to attack Nacho at left-back for Real Madrid, so often Soler was a spectator. But he never let his head drop, nor did he get lazy. He was always in a decent position, which meant that when Daniel Wass looked up from near the by-line and saw all his team-mates piling towards goal, he saw Soler hanging back around the penalty spot. So Wass pulled it back and Soler stepped up and smashed Valencia into a well-deserved lead.
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Loser: Ferran Torres
Ferran Torres is the next big thing out of the Valencia youth academy, of that there can be no doubt. A multi-talented winger, the 19-year-old is sensational, and today was deployed by Albert Celades in a forward role alongside Rodrigo. This was a big responsibility for the youngster, especially against Real Madrid, and he somewhat justified his manager’s decision.
On the one hand, Torres’ movement was outrageous. No Madrid defender got anywhere near him. He had more shots than any of his team-mates, and these were all really good chances too as he drifted into spaces around the likes of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.
And yet, Torres missed every single chance he had. His slow decision-making kept Madrid’s clean sheet in tact for over 75 minutes when Valencia had diced them open on multiple occasions. And because of Torres’ misses, Valencia were just the one goal up in the 95th minute, allowing Real Madrid to equalise instead of nab a consolation.
This was a double failure for Torres. Firstly he showed a lack of cutting edge for his side Valencia, preventing them from picking up a historic win. And secondly, he wouldn’t have impressed Real Madrid – they’ve tried to buy him a few times already in his young career and this kind of performance may not push them to try and get a move done asap.
The Champions played out a disappointing draw with Real Sociedad on Saturday, an especially bad result because it gave Real Madrid a huge chance to return to the top of La Liga so long as they won at Mestalla. And for the first 25 minutes it looked like they would do exactly that. But they didn’t. Valencia held out and eventually took the lead. And even though Los Blancos eventually equalised, the fact that they didn’t win keeps Barcelona top of La Liga and with a slight advantage ahead of El Clásico which is coming up midweek.
Loser: Fede Valverde
For the first time this season, Fede Valverde didn’t play well. That may sound ridiculous given that we’re halfway through December but it’s honestly true. The mercurial Uruguayan has been so good for Real Madrid this season that he has unleashed Toni Kroos and allowed the German to find his best form again.
Except he didn’t do that alone. Alright he was the most spectacular performer in the Madrid midfield but he was aided in his defensive brilliance by Casemiro. The pair of them were a great double-act. They pressed and tracked all over midfield to close off spaces for opponents, and when one of them surged forward (usually Valverde) the other was always still behind them in midfield to ensure Madrid weren’t an open avenue for their opponents to stroll down.
Well today, with Casemiro being rested to avoid a suspension in the Clásico it was Valverde left alone in midfield with four other attacking players and after a blazingly quick first 25 minutes where Madrid were all guns blazing, things got real slow as Los Che took control of the tempo and began playing around Madrid’s midfield. Valverde resisted as best he could, but found himself looking rather ordinary and making big mistakes as there was just too much ground to cover.