A 4-1 away win at the Mestalla, exactly what the doctor ordered after a dismal display vs. Leganes earlier in the week. Zidane rolled out the “once de gala” and brought back his beloved BBC. Despite the score line, Valencia were no pushovers and battled Madrid all evening. It was Marcelo and Toni Kroos’s late goals that sentenced Valencia to defeat. It was an encouraging game for Madridistas with great individual performances from the likes of Keylor Navas, Marcelo, Modric, and Ronaldo.
Keylor Navas—8.5: Superb game. Commanded his box, smart-quick choices with his distribution, and made some big saves including a ferocious shot from Geoffrey Kondgobia’s left foot midway through the first half. Then in the second half, went on to make an incredible kick save off of Parjeo’s shot, saving Madrid from giving up the equalizer.
Dani Carvajal—6.5: Quietly went about his business and did his job well. Toni Lato and Gaya offered nothing offensively in the first half, but Gaya’s presence grew in the second. Caused Carvajal problems with his pace in transition and limited his attacking forays in the second half. Aside from the yellow card, will be happy with his performance.
Raphael Varane—7: Varane and Nacho are beginning to form a solid partnership. Both have come of age this year and command the backline. Made some crucial interceptions to hault Santi Mina and Rodrigo.
Nacho—7: Another solid performance from Nacho. His 1v1 defending was superb tonight. Though, for all the praise Nacho has received, he does still sturggle with aerial battles. Santi Mina got the better of Nacho on a corner kick in the second half which put Valencia back into the game. In fairness to Nacho, Bale ran into him and knocked him over impeding his ability to properly contest Mina.
Marcelo—9.5: One of Marcelo’s best performances of the season. He was creative, incisive, and defensively sound. He is so hard to track because he can move into the middle and back out to the left wing with ease and comfort. Bursted his lungs to fly forward with Ronaldo and Benzema on the penalty earning counter attack. Then late in the game combined twice with Marco Asensio, whom he has great understand with, and smashed home the third goal for Madrid with a very acute angle. Dealt with both Guedes and Soler in each half, Valencia’s two brightest talents, and kept them quiet. Hopefully Marcelo can continue this form late into the season!
Casemiro—7.5: Clear instruction from Zidane to stop Guedes on the counter-attack. Covered a lot of ground in midfield almost to a fault—at times in the first half he stretched the midfield and left gaping holes. Played very well in the second half, covering well for Marcelo and kept his distribution simple.
Luka Modric—8.5: Calm, cool, and collected all game. A joy to watch. A trait that is often over-looked for the Croatian is his off the ball movement. He will make a pass and then quickly get in behind his man to receive the ball back.
Toni Kroos—8.5: Toni seems to be regaining his form. He controlled the midfield with Luka, playing crisp passes and combining well with Marcelo and Ramos on the left side of the pitch. Found himself on the score sheet, after beautiful combination play between himself, Marcelo, and Kovacic. In typical Toni fashion, he snipered the ball into the bottom corner.
Gareth Bale—6.5: Did not hit the high standards he set for himself in previous games, but still a solid outing for the Welshman. Had some very dangerous moments, including his last play before being substituted where he burned Toni Lato and laid a perfect pass for Cristiano who almost complete his hat-trick. He tracked back well and along with Carvajal, kept Lato and Gaya quiet.
Karim Benzema—7.5: The return of the BBC, looked to bring out the best of Benzema. Combined well with both Cristiano and Bale. It was his assist on the counter attack that earned the first penalty. Later in the first half, it would be Benzema again who earned the second penalty after Montoya clattered him in the back as they both went up for Carvajal’s cross. Looked to be upset when substituted and his frustration could be understood given his good performance.
Cristiano Ronaldo—9: Executed a perfect counter attack in the 15th minute after Bale cleared a Valencia corner kick and Ronaldo then drove through the midfield with power and pace. The counter attack found it’s way back to Ronaldo via Benzema, but before he could get the shot off Montoya took him down. Ronaldo tucked the penalty away and gave Madrid the lead early in the game. There seems to be a night and day difference in Cristiano’s comfort coming from the left rather than the middle. Scored his second, another penalty, with pure conviction—Neto had no chance even after guessing the right way. He was a constant nuisance for the Valencia backline and came close to completing his hat-trick on a couple of occasions. Now has four goals in his last two La Liga games and his confidence is growing.
Marco Asensio—7: Entered the game for Benzema, but pushed Ronaldo tot he striker position and young Marco occupied the left wing. Had many lovely touches and combined with Marcelo twice, ultimately assisting the Brazilian, on Madrid’s third goal, which secured the victory.
Mateo Kovacic—7: Only had the last eight or so minutes to make an impact, but his first touch was a majestic and cheeky back-heel turn which found it’s way to Toni Kroos who buried the ball into the bottom corner. Kovacic fits the 4-3-3 system well.
Lucas Vazquez—6.5: Provided fresh legs and defensively stability on the right flank.
Zinedine Zidane—8.5: With the BBC and a 4-3-3 formation, Zidane seems to have found the right balance again. The “A” team will be growing in confidence after their last two results in La Liga. This was a statement win from Madrid and Zidane and will help soften the Copa Del Rey blow from Wednesday. Often cristied for his substitutions, tonight they were well timed and the perfect solution for each moment in the game. Lucas V helped provide some defensive stability as Gaya and Valencia’s left flank attacking influence was growing, Marco Asensio came on to freshen the attack and put Valencia back on their heels, and Kovacic helped to kill time and put fresh legs in for the 32-year old Luka Modric.
MOTM: Cristiano Ronaldo & Marcelo