If after 25 minutes of play you had told a Real Madrid fan that they were about to lose at the Mestalla, conceding four goals in the process, you would’ve been called a liar. At that juncture, with quarter-of-an-hour off the clock, Zinedine Zidane’s men were leading by one goal. They had, up until that point, and even about 10 minutes after it, looked fine. In the absence of Casemiro; Fede Valverde and Luka Modric worked in sync to cut off Valencia’s passing lanes out of the back. Offensively, Asensio, Vinicius, and Isco were fluid (even if not effective). The team was not bothered by Valencia’s attacks as the transition defense was largely good (the team pulled a deeper line to limit opportunities, and both Asensio and Vinicius tracked on the wings — a much needed wrinkle with both Lucas Vazquez and Marcelo struggling defensively.)
Real Madrid’s goal came from a Marcelo cut-back to Benzema — a ploy that earned Real Madrid three shots at almost this exact same position in the first half:
When it all came undone and spiralled: Real Madrid conceded a penalty through a Lucas Vazquez hand-ball. Carlos Soler stepped up to take the spot-kick. Thibaut Courtois saved it, but after two rebounds, Yunus Musa put the ball into the back of the net. After a lengthy VAR review (multiple players infringing their presence into the box too early), the penalty was retaken, and Soler scored.
Two takeaways from that entire ordeal: 1) The amount of time it took zapped some energy out of Real Madrid’s play; and 2) Marcelo’s lack of reaction to Musa’s disallowed goal.
Just before half-time, Real Madrid conceded another goal. Raphael Varane not dealing well with this clearance at all:
VAR steps in again to reward Valencia with a go-ahead goal after a Raphael Varane clearance goes wrong.#ValenciaRealMadrid - LIVE ⬇️— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) November 8, 2020
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At half-time, Real Madrid had plenty to work on, but it wasn’t out of reach. The second half nearly started with a bang, after a good pressure sequence by Real Madrid resulted in Benzema nearly converting a chance in the box — Jaume Domenech quickly came off his line to intervene.
After that, there was little to write home about. Real Madrid had some bizarre defensive sequences, including one complete collective meltdown which resulted in yet another penalty kick for Valencia after Marcelo committed a foul (lots of bad dominoes leading up to that which we’ll break down tonight). Nine minutes later, A Ramos handball in the box gave Soler his third penalty of the game.
We’ll dissect this in much more detail in the coming hours.