Matches played against Valencia are usually eventful, but not today. Valencia failed to show any personality or character. Their usual trick, morphing into 1970’s Brazil, never appeared. Instead it was a Real Madrid side, with Toni Kroos and Dani Carvajal restored to the starting XI, that were quick and lethal on their attacking transitions. Javi Gracia’s team looked to utilize the blueprint that has been so successful against Zidane’s Madrid, sitting in a deep block. Those plans were quickly unraveled after Karim Benzema, who was a doubt after his achilles was stamped on in the first minute of the match, curled in an inch perfect shot with his right foot into the bottom corner. Benzema’s goal was the personification of the finesse shot on FIFA.
Benzema managed to avoid an injury, but Dani Carvajal did not. Dani could only last 30 minutes. The full back pulled up after sprinting for the ball on the right wing (*insert Zidane towel throw gif*). It’s yet another muscle injury for Carvajal, whose entire season has been stop – start due to the constant muscle overloads. Questions can be asked of Zidane and the medical team for rushing Carvajal back given his fragile physical state. Lucas Vazquez, who just returned from injury himself, replaced Dani as the team’s fullback.
Madrid’s dominated the entire first half with Valencia unable to muster a single shot. It was very rare to see them even venture near Madrid’s box. Valencia have been a mess all season long. It makes Madrid’s 4-1 loss earlier this season even more embarrassing. The nail was hammered into the coffin when the familiar connection of Lucas Vazquez to Toni Kroos resulted in the second goal for Madrid just before half. Toni Kroos cemented his near perfect first 45 with what was a beautiful team goal.
Kroos's 1st half: 1 goal, 1 assist, 4 key passes (game high), 7 of 8 completed long balls, 62 touches (game high), 96.5 PA%— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) February 14, 2021
Valencia’s malaise only continued in the second half. Luka Modric cut out passing lanes and intercepted the ball high up the pitch, while his center midfield partner Toni Kroos won the ball in the final third to ignite quick transitions. Those two were once again at the center of all of Madrid’s good play. Both midfielders nearly played Asensio in for a 1 v 1 with Domenech.
A third goal for Madrid came near the hour mark, but VAR called it offsides. It was the easiest of the three goals. A simple ball over the top from Nacho saw both Mendy and Vinicius sprint into the final third. The Brazilian played a well-timed final ball for his French fullback and Mendy kept his composure inside the box to bury the shot with his right foot.
After the goal was disallowed, Javi Gracia played his final hand – throwing on three substitutions to try and change the game. Valencia tried to play more on the front foot, which played into Vinicius JR’s strengths on the counterattack. Zidane responded with his own change; Sergio Arribas came on for Asensio in the 70th minute. The change was the cherry on top for Real Madrid’s victory as the Canterano got another cameo with the first team. The second half had little else to note, with very few chances for either side.
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