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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 2 - 1 Valencia

Real Madrid leave it late, but get the W. Here are some notes we took

Real Madrid CF v Valencia CF - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Marcelo saved the team with a late winning goal as Real Madrid win 2-1 at the Bernabeu (Ronaldo, Marcelo; Parejo). Here are some notes we took. Still to come: Player ratings shortly, tactical review tonight, and a post-game podcast tomorrow.

Chalk up the W. In a game where Real Madrid governed possession, slung the ball around in the final third, and looked the better side overall, the three points stood out above all against an opponent that typically throws up its gloves and fights Real Madrid till the death.

Valencia made it uncomfortable, to be sure -- and Dani Parejo did turn into Pirlo for one moment, just as we had predicted. But this wasn’t a masterclass from Voro’s men, and ultimately, everything was in Real Madrid’s hands, and their settling for discomfort was down to their own accord.

From the first minute, Sergio Ramos misread a header from a long-range pass, which led to a clear-cut Santi Mina chance which Keylor Navas — who’s been in great form of late — saved. Later in the half, James Rodriguez had an unforced miss-pass which gave Valencia a counter-attack and great chance which they failed to capitalize on (being completely inefficient in the final third was a trend for them in this match), and on an ensuing possession, Nacho misread a passing lane to Orellana, who uncharacteristically fluffed a chance wide of goal. Up until Ronaldo’s goal in the first half, Valencia — despite being out-passed and seeing little of the ball — had the more definitive chances.

In the second half, while Real Madrid started to distance themselves as the clearly superior team, they had moments of sleep-walking — particularly when Casemiro needlessly committed a foul from behind which Parejo beautifully converted from. That moment was so preventable — something we say often with Real Madrid’s conceded goals. It was also a thwarting moment, even if the team was about to climb themselves out of it.

In a silly way, there was always an aura of getting the three points despite Parejo’s late equalizer. This is both frustrating and sanguine. On one hand, Real Madrid’s mental (and tactical) switch is too reactionary and not imposing enough, and on the other hand, it’s mind-blowing how good they can be when the absolutely have to be.

It is actually staggering how alarmingly good this team is when the bat signal blares. Something clicked in Zidane’s men when Parejo’s free-kick went past Keylor. It’s as if the mental memo kicked in: ‘Oh, shit. Our season might end here if we don’t steamroll Valencia in these last few minutes’.

Steamroll they did. They opened Valencia up like a spring flower, and not long after, Marcelo cut inside for a trademark right-footed curler which gave Real Madrid the three points.

Miscellaneous notes

  • I really liked James and Asensio today. There was a note I made above about James’ misplaced pass, which, is what it is; but I’ve really enjoyed his decisiveness in advanced positions both today and against Deportivo. His decisiveness and decision-making in the final third has been something I’ve raved about since 2014, and it’s great that he’s still reminding me of that trait.
  • Too many people on my live Facebook video at half-time were complaining about the ‘lack of creativity from Modric and Kroos’. This was also echoed by some prominent journalists on Twitter. It’s really important to take into context how the opponent was set-up in this game as opposed to the last game before we start deeming Modric and Kroos as dinosaurs. Valencia defended well today, and completely 10x’d Deportivo in terms of being conservative and compact, as well as moments of calculated press in the first half which I took note of. Real Madrid’s midfield controlled the play today, and you can’t pin it on that midfield duo for not slicing through their opponents when there wasn’t a ton of movement down the central channels, and Valencia defending as compact as they did.
  • Dani Carvajal is one of the most underrated crossers in football. It was a crime from Nani to give him that much space on Ronaldo’s goal.
  • This team is way too damn good to be reactionary rather than imposing.

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