It was a highly entertaining evening at Mestalla and an eventful match between home side Valencia and Real Madrid.
Gary Neville is still in search of his maiden La Liga win as Valencia boss, but former Manchester United defender will have every reason to be pleased with his team’s performance against the visitors from Madrid.
Rafa Benitez’s troops have opened the game in dominant fashion getting on the scoresheet after only 16 minutes through a wonderful team goal lead by Gareth Bale, the assist provider Cristiano Ronaldo and the finisher Karim Benzema.
Los Che demonstrated impressive composure to get back in the game, dominate the first-half and earn an equalizer from the penalty spot.
Exciting second-half brought two more goals in just one minute, a lot of excitement and great football at both ends of the pitch.
Bale’s fantastic header earned Real Madrid another lead in the game with ten minutes on the clock, but Paco Alcacer made sure to level the score in the very next minute of the game. A lot of chances in the closing stages of the game were seen from both sides, but the unpredictably exciting match ended 2-2, despite the fact that Real Madrid ended a game without Kovacic who saw red after a rough challenge in the centre of the pitch.
Here are the five things we learned from this eventful matchup at Mestalla:
- Rafa Benitez can’t handle Real Madrid
The Spanish manager is going through a sticky patch at the moment.
Real Madrid boss has endured a hard time ever since he arrived at Santiago Bernabeu, but the heat is on and the Spanish media speculate this even might have been his last game in charge.
Mestalla matchup has indeed been a breaking point for Real Madrid. Los Blancos have had an impressive end to 2015 with back-to-back triumphs against Rayo Vallecano 10-2 and Real Sociedad 3-1 and have headed into the new year in high spirits, looking to catch up with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, who are now four points clear of Real Madrid in third spot.
Demanding as ever, Real Madrid family has every manager under great scrutiny, but Benitez’s character, quality and ability have been questioned from the start.
His commitment to Real Madrid is beyond any doubt, but his inability to exploit the attacking potential of his players has been worryingly expressed throughout the season, with the exception of Rayo Vallecano hammering and that huge 8-0 win over Malmo FF in the UEFA Champions League.
- Gary Neville (more than) a publicity stunt?
The assistant to Roy Hodgson in England national team has been a surprise choice from Valencia board taking up his first managerial post until the end of the season, raising a lot of eyebrows in the process.
Even though it remains unclear to date what Valencia hierarchy had in mind when they decided to take on fairly inexperienced manager in the delicate moment of the season, with their team struggling to make an impact and achieve the set goals before the beginning of the campaign.
With the Champions League places further away than the relegation spot for Valencia, there is not much that Gary Neville can do than perhaps attract a great deal of attention to the Spanish club.
Neville’s words will only add fuel to fire as former right-back confesses that management is not his long-term goal.
“I’m not going to say where I want to end up, and it isn’t in management or head coaching, so I want to be clear about that,” said Neville, who has been tipped as a possible replacement for Louis van Gaal.
Still looking for his first La Liga win, Gary Neville also claims it is very difficult to lead the training sessions or handle the team talks due to the language barrier, so the hard-fought point against Real Madrid can hardly be attributed to his masterful leading of the game.
- Ronaldo a proper team player
Heavily criticised for his selfishness throughout his career, the Portugal star has been neglected in public assessments of his general performance and contribution.
It has to be noted that Cristiano Ronaldo was Real Madrid’s top assist provider in La Liga last season with the total of 14 assists to his name. This was also his personal record in the Spanish championship since joining Los Blancos, thus surpassing the tally of 11 in 2011/12.
Numbers work in Ronaldo’s favour this season as well.
Real Madrid’s brightest star has recorded an assist for Benzema’s opener at Mestalla, making it 5 in La LIga this term. In addition, Ronaldo has notched 3 assists in the Champions League as well.
Five assists in the last seven games across competitions, followed by 12 goals during the same period speak volumes of his contribution and influence on Real Madrid’s play.
- Andre Gomes is a star
Endlessly talented central midfielder has been hugely impressive and it is no wonder that host of top clubs are vying for his signature.
Barcelona, Manchester City and Napoli are just some of the many teams interested in acquiring the services of the 22-year-old midfielder, who is regarded as one of Europe’s top young talents which he has once again confirmed with his formidably mature showings against Real Madrid.
Valencia starlet was involved in several goal chances in the game. His first-half effort within the penalty area was cleared at the last moment by Danilo, while it was Andre Gomes who was fouled by Pepe for the penalty kick which was ultimately converted to a leveller by Daniel Parejo.
Andre Gomes was an outstanding performer in the second half as well when he stood out with his long-range shot which Keylor Navas had real trouble controlling and managing.
- Real Madrid backline in need of fresh blood
Defence line was the weakest part of the visiting team without a doubt. With Sergio Ramos back in the squad and the experienced Pepe as his partner at the back, Real Madrid were expected to have a commanding and controlling backline, but they got quite the opposite instead.
Shaky, disorganized and poorly positioned, Real Madrid defence was run ragged by Valencia players for the most part of the game.
Pepe was guilty of a penalty, while the reaction from Real Madrid central-backs during the second goal could be branded as amateur, at least.
Rafael Benitez will have to consider reinstating Raphael Varane back to the fold, while at the same time he should explore the possibility of adding another defender on the list during the January transfer market.
VALENCIA: Jaume 6.5 – Barragan 6.5, Aderlan 6, Abdennour 6.5, Orban 6.5 (Rodrigo 6) – Gomes 7, Parejo 7 (Negredo 6), Danilo 7 – Cancelo 6.5, Paco Alcacer 7.5, De Paul 7.5 (Fuego 6).
Unused subs: Mina, Piatti, Ryan, Vezo.
REAL MADRID: Navas 6.5 – Danilo 7, Pepe 6, Ramos 6.5, Marcelo 6.5 – Modric 7, Kroos 7.5, Kovacic 5 – Bale 7.5, Benzema 7.5 (Lucas 6), Ronaldo 7.
Unused subs: Isco, Casemiro, Casilla, Nacho, Rodriguez, Varane.
Referee: Jose Sanchez
Other results this evening:
Rayo Vallecano 2-2 Real Sociedad
Betis 0-4 Eibar
Granada CF 2-1 Sevilla
Athletic Bilbao 2-2 Las Palmas
Deportivo La Coruna 1-2 Villarreal