Saturday, April 29, 2017

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

In some ways, it would have been good if this game had finished in the 80th minute. Sure, we'd have missed a Parejo special, but I'd have taken it just to avoid seeing a smug Real Madrid team celebrating a late winner.

Valencia went into this game missing the suspended Zaza and Cancelo and the injured Enzo, and I think this is one game in which those guys would have made a difference. We could have really done with the speed of Cancelo on the right and the physicality of Zaza and Enzo in each half, as at times Madrid had it a bit too easy in the middle. I've said it before: Valencia are too rigid and predictable in their tactics, always playing the same 4-2-3-1. In this game, I think it would have been best to crowd the midfield, drop Nani and Orellana to centre midfield on the wings with a forward two of Munir and Mina taking turns to drop back. Our tactics in games like this are too easily countered.

Overall, Valencia had a credible performance in the game itself, though with flaws which I'll come to. As usual, this raises the question of why they turn up against teams like this and then can't be bothered against the Malagas or Sociedads? In the first 15 minutes we played a good game. We could have been in front in the first minute when a ball over the top found Mina but Navas produced a good double save. For most of the first 20 minutes we were able to equal Madrid on their own turf. The biggest let down was in the final third, for the front four it just didn't happen. The final passes just went astray and when we did have good chances, such as a great one for Orellana in the 17th minute after a pass from Nani, we fluffed our chances.

Gradually, Madrid took control of the game, especially in the midfield. This was down to tactics more than personnel, as Parejo and Soler had a good game on the whole, but were too cut off from the front four and left exposed as a result. Ronaldo put Madrid ahead in the 27th minute and it was disappointing, almost a carbon copy of their goal in Mestalla in early February: a cross whipped in and Penaldo outjumps Garay to head home. The half ended with Madrid edging it, but VCF still in it. We'd created chances, but hadn't been able to make the break, while Madrid had similarly struggled to break us down.

This pattern continued for most of the second half until broken in the 56th minute. Yet again, Valencia had another soft penalty awarded against them. Parejo had put his hands on Modric, who made a meal of it. Probably two out of three referees would have waved play on, but we always seem to foul of such marginal calls. For the third time, Alves saved a Ronaldo penalty.

The stalemate continued after that. Madrid hit the post, and Valencia's final ball proved poor and we were taking too long passing the ball around in the final third instead of putting the crosses in, losing possession as a result.

Valencia then managed to level in the 82nd minute in probably the only way they were ever going to score: from a set piece. A "Parejazo" - one of the man's great free kicks -beat Navas in the top corner. That seemed to wake Madrid who pushed forward and 4 minutes later some disappointing defending, after the defence had been good the whole game, let Madrid steal it.

A credible performance on the whole, though with questionable tactics and poor attack. However, this is the first time Valencia have lost three in a row since Ayestaran. It would be good to see the team make the same effort against already relegated Osasuna next week. Also, I think we should use these last games to blood the youngsters, though with Valencia B fighting for promotion to segunda, maybe they are better used there.

PLAYER RATINGS

Alves 6.5 - good performance and he's become CR7's nemesis
Lato 6.5 - had really taken his chance in the first team and can now really challenge Gaya for the left back spot
Mangala 7 - very solid game, made numerous good interceptions, big shame he's off soon
Garay 6 - good game except for the goal
Montoya 6 - controlled the right and held off the attacks, though at fault for the winning goal
Soler 6.5 - mostly a good game from the youngster, but has to improve passing and decision making
Parejo 7 - I will miss this guy if he goes, when he does play well, it lifts the team
Orellana 3.5 - continues to be a disappointment
Nani 4.5 - probably the best of the attack, but what's the deal with him strolling off when we're losing?
Mina 3.5 - needs to take his chances and improve his finishing
Munir 4 - fairly anonymous game and should have tracked back for the last goal

SUBS
Rodrigo 4 - good to see him back, but not fully fit and wasted a good chance, heading over
Gaya N/A - has a fight on his hands now with Lato for left back
Bakkali N/A - time to give this guy a proper game or loan him out. Pointless bringing him on in the 88th minute.

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