Goncalo Guedes and Ezequiel Garay goals put the home side 2-0 ahead deservedly at the Mestalla while Los Blancos beacon Karim Benzema headed in a consolation on the stroke of full-time that was harsh in the extreme on Marcelino’s men.
Here are a few thoughts from the game:
ZIDANE’S BEGINNERS LUCK RUNS OUT
Much maligned under previous boss Santiago Solari, Gareth Bale and Isco saw Zidane to victory on his return with a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo that, although not vintage Zidane, was a huge improvement on much of what came before it.
Then, the Frenchman was indebted to his compatriot Benzema for an 89th minute winner as a 3-2 victory was stubbornly wrenched from the grasp of rock-bottom Huesca.
But at a packed and vociferous Mestalla, Zidane’s luck finally ran out. Real started the game well enough but as Valencia’s insightful front four grew in confidence and into the game, the flaws that have dogged Real’s ramshackle defence and ponderous midfield all season were badly exposed.
Marcelo was brought in from the cold by Zidane but on this showing, should have been thrown a blanket to keep warm and left there. Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane looked solid enough but were moved about with alarming ease by Valencia’s free-flowing and energetic forwards. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric saw plenty of the ball but looked at a loss as to what to do with it, while Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio, likewise, looked busy but aimlessly wondered into non-threatening areas.
Of course the season is already lost so all that can be salvaged is a modicum of pride, but this result and performance will give Zidane plenty to ponder as he heads into the summer with a number of issues to fix if Real are to put this shambolic season behind them and return to prominence and challenge Barcelona next term.
VALENCIA WELL WORTH THEIR VICTORY
One of the finest runs in La Liga continued as vivacious Valencia brought the Zidane bandwagon grinding to a shuddering halt. If anything the 2-0 scoreline was harsh on the hosts whose grip on the game tightened in the second half and was rubberstamped by Garay’s late goal – the least the home side deserved.
Los Che are unbeaten in their last 17 games in all competitions and haven’t tasted defeat in the league since the opening game of 2019. Marcelino’s side have stormed up the table and this huge win took them above Sevilla and Alaves – albeit temporarily – and into fifth place and the all-important Europa League spot, one point behind Getafe.
Valencia were bright and bustling throughout and really took charge after Guedes’ stunning strike gave them the lead. They defended confidently and never sat backk looking to defend their lead – with their flair players in attack always threatening to carve open the visitors.
Led by effervescent and passionate skipper Daniel Parejo and roared on by a passionate Mestalla, Valencia were fully deserving of their victory – the one thing missing was a bigger margin of victory. With Parejo pounding around and pulling strings and attackers Guedes, Soler, Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo, as well as substitute Denis Cheryshev, causing Real no end of misery, they could and really should have made this victory more emphatic.
Up into Europa League contention, yet that is the least they should be aiming for. On this form and with the players at his disposal, Marcelino and Co should be targeting Getafe’s fourth spot and a return to the Champions League.
MARCELO MUST BE MOVED ON
It’s clear that Gareth Bale’s form, not to mention his poor relationship with Zidane, is contributing to the notion his future might lie away from the Bernabeu.
On the other hand, Marcelo’s strong bond with the Frenchman is seen as a reason for his re-emergence in the starting XI in the early days of his second reign. The question is, why?
Nothing Marcelo did at the Mestalla suggested predecessor Solari was erring in his decision to overlook the veteran Brazilian. Sure, he bounded forward down the left flank and collected possession well from the myriad sprayed balls from midfield in his direction.
But he skied two wayward shots, had two unskilled touches and was dispossessed once in the first half alone, while his distribution was woeful. His first-half figure of 76.3 per cent success was far below the standard set by his 10 team-mates – even keeper Keylor Navas outshone him. He wasn’t even within touching distance of Vazquez’s 82.5.
His attacking instincts and contributions are the things that have served him well during his magnificent Madrid career but they are clearly not what they once were.
And going backwards towards his own goal has always been his Achilles heel. As Valencia grew into the game he was badly exposed as Carlos Soler and Daniel Wass worked in tandem down his wing.
His miserable outing was compounded by a yellow card deservedly shown for a grim fall to the floor in a sad attempt to win a free-kick.
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