Real Madrid drop two points in the most preventable way. They miss enough clear-cut chances for a whole season, and ultimately, Asenio’s two God-like goals weren’t enough to lift the team’s miscues. The game ended 2-2 (Asensio x2; Soler, Kondogbia). Here’s our quick reaction to the match. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, tactical review, and post-game quotes.
BREAKING: Valencia turn into AC Milan 1988 when playing against Real Madrid! What’s... New?
To be fair, Valencia under Marcelinho look well drilled. In a game where everyone couldn’t resist drooling over this Real Madrid team, Valencia stuck true to their guns — they snuffed out space, allowed almost no open vertical lanes, and forced Real Madrid to be their most creative selves when curating chances. Those chances came, but those chances just weren’t taken. Benzema and Bale were active up front in link-up play — and Bale in particular looked dangerous when switching to the left flank in the first half — but both missed ample clear-cut chances. (Psst.. I don’t think Karim Benzema made it out of the stadium alive.)
Real Madrid started this game on a blitz — dominating possession and pinning Valencia deep. With Casemiro starting as a makeshift center-back, the assumption was that either Kovacic or Llorente would slot in as the anchor. But Zidane surprised us and decided to pack the midfield with Modric, Kroos, Isco, Asensio, and Bale. The plan was clear — dominate possession and defend with the ball at your feet, masking Casemiro in the process.
For large chunks of this game, it worked. Asensio was a man on fire, turning everything he touched into gold (and goals), and Real Madrid dictated play. But in the 18th minute, Real Madrid switched off. Asensio (who had the best defensive game of his life, overall) had a mixup with Carvajal defensively defending a cutting run on the flank, and when the ball eventually was played square in the box, neither Nacho or Marcelo picked up Carlos Soler’s run.
Valencia picked up momentum from there and grew into the game.
At half-time, Zidane was forced to switch an ill Isco out for Kovacic. In truth, Isco wasn’t having a great game, and Kovacic should’ve helped with some of the bleeding in transition. He did, to an extent, do so, but Real Madrid were pushing forward in numbers often enough that by the time Kondogbia (who had an excellent game throughout) scored, Kroos wasn’t in a position to close down the shot.
Valencia’s lead was unnerving to say the least, even if Marco Asensio heroically saved a point. Real Madrid really felt threatened tonight and could have lost this game with their careless defending just as much as they could have won this game if it weren’t for their careless finishing.
We’ll break this down more in our post-game coverage in the coming hours.