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After bagging two consecutive wins in the Spanish top-flight, Real Madrid went into the match at Valencia looking for their third on the trot.
They didn’t have Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, and Casemiro at their disposal, of course, but the visitors had enough firepower to bring something home from their trip to the Mestalla.
Los Blancos capitalised on the acres of space Valencia were leaving behind in the opening minutes and were carving out chances with ease.
Vinicius Jr, Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio, and Luka Modric were running circles around the Valencia defenders and forced them to concede just before the half-hour mark. Benzema’s outside-the-box effort was full of venom and easily caught the Valencia shot-stopper off guard.
However, just as they looked poised to add a couple more to the tally, Valencia won themselves a penalty. Controversy ensued following a rebound goal, but Carlos Soler eventually converted from the spot.
Next, a Raphael Varane own-goal handed Valencia the lead for the first time in the match, allowing them to go into the break with a slender advantage.
After the break, Valencia continued to create chances and eventually won two more penalties. Soler stepped up, two more times, to beat Thibaut Courtois.
#3 A game of penalties
The frequency of penalties have skyrocketed after the introduction of the Video Assistant Referees (VAR), and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Last night, Real Madrid paid the price for not adhering to VAR’s strict code for penalties and ended up giving away three of those throughout the course of the 90 minutes.
Lucas Vazquez, Sergio Ramos, and Marcelo ended up gifting spot-kicks, and Carlos Soler made sure to capitalise on each of those.
Thibaut Courtois saved the first one, quite emphatically. However, the penalty had to be retaken because of Yunus Musah’s impatience. Soler converted the re-take with ease.
#2 Real Madrid’s shambolic defence
Just a few months back, Real Madrid had the most decorated defence in Europe. Coach Zinedine Zidane’s efficient system kept things impeccable at the back, which eventually helped balance the scales.
This season, that same defence has failed miserably to give Thibaut Courtois the much-anticipated peace of mind.
With Dani Carvajal, Nacho, and Alvaro Odriozola still recovering from their respective injuries, Zidane has had to field Lucas Vazquez as a right-back. Versatile as he is, Lucas is hardly an efficient full-back. And many teams, in Spain and in Europe, are starting to take notice.
Marcelo and Raphael Varane, too, have been extremely ordinary this term. The Brazilian, especially, has looked off colour whenever he’s played, but Zidane still has complete faith in the player. Varane, on the other hand, lacks confidence and hasn’t shown the solidity Madridistas expect of him.
Finally, Sergio Ramos has definitely been better than the rest of the lot, but he, too, has lacked consistency. And against Valencia, Real Madrid, unfortunately, didn’t get the guidance of their decorated captain.
#1 Real Madrid need changes
Last night, Real Madrid succumbed to defeat for the second time in the Spanish top division. Not only were they all over the place at the back, but they also failed to put the Valencia defenders under pressure in the second half.
Struck by COVID-19, Real Madrid couldn’t manage to acquire new assets for the season. So, at least for the season, Zidane has to make do with all he has.
And a part of that must include bringing Luka Jovic into play. The Serbian is low on confidence at the moment, but he has the quality to be extremely ruthless in front of goal.
A consistent run of games is what he needs to get back into shape, and Zidane must find a way to figure that out sooner than later.