Real Valladolid 0-1 Real Madrid (Casemiro). Three points away from first place. Here is the immediate reaction to the game. Still to come: Player ratings, interview quotes and the post match podcast.
With league Atlético Madrid dropping points from all of their last three games, many Real Madrid fans may have rekindled an ounce of hope for a late title race surge. Los Blancos were still plagued with an injury crisis though, and once again had to call up no more than six Castilla players into the squad to compensate for missing stars. Whilst Altube, Chust, Gutiérrez, Arribas and Blanco have become regulars for Zidane, Castilla top scorer Hugo Duro was called upon some to add some variety. Mariano Díaz started in Karim Benzema’s absence. A win today would mean Real Madrid would be three points from the top of the table, with a game advantage (maximum six points).
I have been a big admirer of Mariano for a long time now and have long thought that he could be a more than useful asset to this club (and at times he really has been). However, it is no secret that his statistical output has begun to deteriorate despite an increase in opportunities this season. If he didn’t score or contribute in this game then even I might start to question his value to the team. In fairness to him, his first half was full of good play and goals - but both times he found the net the offside flag went up. The first was just reckless as he needlessly pushed on allowing himself to stray offside, before turning a recovering defender and finishing nicely. The second was not as frustrating, as a dummy from Luka Modrić forced both the defenders and Mariano himself to commit, and by the time the ball came it was too late. Madrid dominated the half but in the final third they often overplayed when the opening emerged. This led to the half finishing goalless despite the promising play.
Casemiro gets the breakthrough for Madrid! ⚪— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) February 20, 2021
What an important goal that could prove to be pic.twitter.com/8z7FPMP6by
Madrid needed to capitalise in the second half. The title had all but gone only a week ago - and miracles like Atlético’s sudden drop in from are unlikely to come around twice in a season. The second period began in similar fashion to the first, with Madrid dominating proceedings only to lack that finishing touch. Not for the first time this season, the important goal would derive from none other than Casemiro, who smacked a Toni Kroos free-kick past the keeper with his head. Hugo Duro then came on to deservedly make his Real Madird debut - making an incredible season for Castilla in terms of first team opportunities even better with many games to go. Arribas also came on alongside Isco, and continued to impress fans with his technique and intelligence. Valladolid never really looked a threat, but Madrid managed the game well even with the introduction of the less experienced youngsters - and easily preserved the win to put the club back within three points from the top of the table. What an extraordinary season... Have your dashed title hopes been revived?