After Eibar went 1-0 up at the Santiago Bernabeu, it semmed Jose Mendelibar’s men were on course to complete a double over Real Madrid.
They had completely dominated Los Blancos at home in a game which ended 3-0 in their favour and it looked like they picked up from where they left off when Marc Cardona opened the scoring after he chipped Gonzalo Escalante’s pass over Keylor Navas and into the back of the net.
However, Zinedine Zidane’s men rode on Karim Benzema’s brace to bag all three points and avenge their defeat.
We take a look at the talking points from this comeback.
BENZEMA – MADRID’S SILENT GUARDIAN Karim Benzema
Karim Benzema has scored more La Liga goals than the rest of Real Madrid's attack combined this season 🌟 pic.twitter.com/RpFoPan6zI— Sport360° (@Sport360) April 6, 2019
Naturally, the striker is expected to score most of the goals. But what Benzema has done for Madrid this season is incredible. The Frenchman has saved Madrid’s blushes pretty often and this game would go down as yet another example.
Benzema first got the ball at the back of the net after he cheekily slipped in Gareth Bale’s square pass. But the Welshman was judged offside. Next, he capitalised on a mistake by the opposition keeper and slotted in, only for the play to be pulled back because the former France international was just inches offside.
It was third time lucky for Benzema, who made no mistake heading in Alvaro Odriozola’s cross to help Madrid pull level. He later nodded home Toni Kroos’ corner to hand the hosts the lead.
Aside from the fact that he has scored more La Liga goals this season than Bale, Isco, Vinicius Junior, Marco Asensio, Mariano Diaz and Lucas Vazquez combined, Benzema has been one of the most complete and reliable players for Madrid this season.
He has been forced to drop deep at times to support the play and create for the likes of Bale and Vinicius and he has done so without compromising on his duties as a goalscorer. Benzema did claim that Cristiano Ronaldo was holding him back and he can do a lot better this season. He has justified his claim by carrying Madrid’s insipid attack.
BALE’S TIME IS SURELY UP
Bale does drop the occasional impressive performance, but it’s usually followed by a series of mediocre ones. Almost every aspect of the Welshman’s game was poor against Eibar.
The winger’s shooting has been woeful in the past few games and it does not look like he is working on improving it. He was sent through on goal in a one-on-one situation with acres of space behind and in front of him, but he only managed to direct his shot exactly at the keeper, his blushes spared by the offside flag.
Minutes later, he shot from distance and the ball soared past Eibar’s last line of defence, embarrassingly wide. At this point, it was clear that the fans had lost their patience and they were making their displeasure at the Welshman known, with jeers and whistles. If anything, this only made things worse for Bale, who then started coupling horrible touches with inaccurate passes.
The former Spurs man did drop to defend against Eibar’s dangerous defenders, but he showed lack of conviction and was beaten easily.
It’s fair to say that Bale’s future at Madrid is on the line and he is not doing much to save it.
YOUNG GUNS IMPRESS
Federico Valverde was clearly the pick of the lot for Madrid in the disastrous first half. The youngster was trying to hold together whatever was left of Madrid’s shredded midfield and covered up for Luka Modric in a couple of occasions. In the past and in this game, Valverde has shown that there is immense potential in him and he deserves more minutes.
Sergio Reguilon was absolutely solid for Madrid on the left and he barely made any mistakes throughout the game. The youngster is definitely on course to replace Marcelo as the first choice left-back.
Earlier this season, Odriozola was totally dominated by Marc Cucurella. This time, the right-back ensured that the wing-back – who is on loan from Barcelona – was kept silent throughout the game. He also showed promise in attack and bagged an assist.
The battle was decided on the wing when the two teams met earlier this season. The same can be said about Madrid’s win at the Bernabeu, but this tie it was Madrid’s young full-backs who came out on top. The future is definitely bright for Los Blancos. It all comes down to when Zidane chooses to commence with the transition.
Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro stated insists the team is united and all the players are working hard to overcome their crisis this season.
Los Blancos’ misery continued after they lost 2-1 to Valencia on Wednesday night, with Dani Parejo inspiring the hosts to a win that could prove to be decisive in their quest for a top-four finish.
The Brazilian believes that the players now need to give their best in every training session and every match to get out of this slump.
“Real Madrid have to do the best they can in every [training] session and every match,” Casemiro said after the game, according to Marca.
“We know it’s a hard time but we all have to be counted. It’s a complicated year and we’re working to return [stronger] next season.
“We’re together when we lose. When one of us is bad we all are. We’re working.”
Casemiro is of the opinion that Madrid were far from second best against Valencia and they controlled the game pretty well in the first half.
“I don’t think they were superior,” he said.
“We controlled the first half well and then they scored. We had control of the match, but they scored. We worked in the second half, we tried, but scoring is complicated.”
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.