Real Madrid emerged triumphant in the first leg of Copa del Rey against Valencia with a 2-0 scoreline. Karim Benzema and an own goal by Andres Guardado were the difference makers at the end of the day.
Having played an incredibly boring draw against Osasuna on the weekend, Real Madrid needed to show its determination and desire in a competition it still has a chance of winning. 2-0 and no away goals conceded makes it difficult for Valencia to come back from, especially if we score at the Mestalla.
5 conclusions you can draw from the game:
- Sami Khedira had a fantastic game and in my opinion, he was the best player on the pitch tonight. He closed down Valencia’s players, ran around to help the defence and most importantly, he played an attacking role today. Whenever Sami plays in an attacking role, he does well and contributes more to the team than when he’s employed in the middle of the park as a defensive midfielder. His influence can be determined by the fact that he provided the assist for Benzema’s first goal. If Sami could somehow add the dimension of converting his chances, he would most definitely make much more of an impact for the club than he does already.
- The left back position has been the most talked about for Real Madrid with Marcelo and Coentrao being injured on many instances needing a player to fill in that gap. Today both were fit as Marcelo returned from the injury he picked up more than three months ago. He started the game and was half decent in the forty-five minutes he played. He looked a little wary and cautious in getting his foot in to make a tackle or make his usual lung busting tricks filled runs down the left but I think that’s expected when you’ve been out for so long. The decision to substitute him was a fair one to keep his return a gradual process. Fabio replaced him after half time and did a good job of keeping Valencia at bay in the second half after they had easy access in the first half. Coentrao stuck to his task through the half to give little room for movement. It’s still difficult to say who should be the clear first choice because both offer different things and are really good at it.
- One thing I’ve seen time and time again this season is Iker pass to a player near the box despite the opponent player charging him down. Subsequently, this player would also take a few touches to either pass it around or just hoof it forward. It’s clear that this tactic of short passes puts the players under pressure and it was visible on one or two occasions today. This is what happened minutes after Iker replaced Adan against Real Sociedad and it happened twice in a few minutes. At that time it was necessary to calm nerves down especially given the fact that we were down to ten men and shaken with the decision. Today, Iker was almost closed down by Soldado as he tried to pass it short but luckily for us, he remained a yard away. The point is, this style of play, this tactic needs to go. If it is to be used, make sure the ball is passed to the nearest defender a bit quicker than it is now.
- Despite the very little time they get to play, Raul Albiol and Ricardo Carvalho surely did a fantastic job today. So much so, Arbeloa and Varane got some time to rest on the bench. Both Albiol and Carvalho were smart with their tackles and held their positions very well. There was possibly only one moment of bother when in the first half, everyone moved up to go for an offside trap but Carvalho was slow to react and almost made it onside which would have allowed Soldado to go through. Mind you, that decision is still not 100% certain. Other than that, both stuck to their task, made some excellent tackles and pretty much kept the Valencian attack at bay.
- Possibly the biggest talking point of the game would be the extremely poor calls made by the linesman to pull Soldado offside on two instances when clearly he was onside. First was in the first half as everyone tried to play the offside trap, Soldado did manage to stay onside but he was wrongly given offside. Iker did come out quickly to clear the ball away. The second instance was the bigger chance. Yet again, Soldado was the one given offside but he was a good yard onside, he went on and hit the crossbar with the rebound falling back to Iker. Both wrong decisions and both further highlighting the poor officiating in Spain. To make matters worse for Valencia, their manager Ernesto Valverde was sent off by the referee for protesting. He later said, “I asked to make a sub. They scored a goal. I lost my head a bit. I complained, and I was sent off.” (source) Some would say that Soldado didn’t score from either of those two chances but its clear that players switch off when play is pulled for offside and if you try to continue going to score a goal, you are brandished a yellow card for kicking the ball or time-wasting. The game may have been different had the offside decisions not been given and they were converted. Valencia maybe would have a crucial away goal and keep the tie closer. An image by Marca to illustrate the offside decisions:
Just as we’ve complained of referee decisions in the past, Valencia fans, players and management deserve to feel hard done by and should have definitely had more than what they got today.
What did you make of the game, the tactics, players and the offside decisions? Comment box below is yours to use!