Madrid retain title as Rakitic breaks Valencian hearts
Real Madrid retained the La Liga title this afternoon despite only managing a draw away at Valladolid, as Valencia fell 3-2 at home against Sevilla. The result, only the 3rd defeat of the season for Los Che, and their first at home, means that last year’s champions Real Madrid once again lift the trophy, courtesy of their better head to head record, despite the sides finishing on both level points and level goal difference, Valencia having also scored 2 more. Gabriel Paulista returned to centre back, with Wass in at right back, while Guedes was chosen to partner the jaded Maxi Gómez up front, with Jason on the right wing and leading scorer Kevin Gameiro once again on the bench.
Valencia began the brighter of the two sides, Sevilla also looking for points themselves with a slim outside hope of taking the final Europa league spot. With 10 minutes gone, the hosts began to turn the screw, a Wass throw in on the right led to a one two with Musah before the full-back broke to the byeline and found Jason lurking on the edge of the box. The winger had time to pick out Guedes in the middle, but with nothing on the makeshift striker switched play to the other wing, where José Gayà was in space to carry the ball, beating Rakitic as he went. The skipper played a superb ball to pick out Yunus Musah at the edge of the box, and the young midfielder took a touch before firing into the bottom corner to give the hosts a valuable lead.
5 minutes later the hosts looked to double their advantage, this time after another throw-in from Wass was only half cleared. Diakhaby picked up the long clearance, sending the ball forward to goal scorer Musah, who this time opted to carry himself running at the defence before slipping the ball through to Guedes, on the edge of the area with his back to goal. The Portuguese international looked to lay one off for strike partner Maxi Gómez, who got his shot away but failed to really trouble Tomas Vaclik, who showed a safe pair of hands to hold onto the effort.
Minutes later it was the turn of Guedes again, this time Maxi Gómez holding the ball up, laying off for Musah who sent one over the top to Guedes in space on the right. He made the angle for himself inside the area but dragged his eventual shot across goal and wide. It proved to be costly as a few minutes later Sevilla found themselves all square with a quite sublime goal. It came from a Valencia attack, De La Cruz beating Rakitic before cutting back for Carlos Soler. The midfield man saw his cross cut out by Jules Koundé, who sent a long ball forward to find Youssef En-Nesyri racing through the middle. The Moroccan split through the Valencia back line, drifting beyond Gabriel Paulista, before following up with a quite audacious chip over Cillessen, who could only watch on as the ball sailed in.
With the Madrid game still all square, just after the half hour mark Valencia edged themselves back into the lead. From their own half, Gayà picked out Carlos Soler from the throw in, the midfielder sending the ball round the corner for De La Cruz in space on the left. The winger sent one forward, where Guedes got the better of Koundé, allowing Maxi Gómez to break free with the ball. The Uruguayan striker created the time and space before producing the finish, firing one low and hard beyond Vaclik into the bottom right hand corner.
Far from allowing their heads to drop, Sevilla hit back again immediately from the kick off. Playing the ball in midfield and drawing the hosts on to them, Fernando then sprung a ball over the top where Luuk De Jong found himself inexplicably clean through between the Valencia centre half pairing, the former PSV man showing great composure to take a touch and then slot beyond Jasper Cillessen, who was rushing out in an attempt to try and close down the danger.
Valencia hoped to take the advantage back into the break, although with the Madrid game still goalless a point would have been enough. De La Cruz again found some space on the left, although this time the winger cut across the back four to create some space himself, flashing a shot just wide in the process, as it remained level at the break.
The visitors took a shock lead 56 minutes in when they were gifted a penalty. Former Valencia man Rakitic was again pulling the strings in midfield, with En-Nesyri again getting into space and testing the Valencia defence, this time Cillessen proving equal to the challenge as he got down well to tip the ball wide for a Sevilla corner. As the ball was swung in it appeared to hit the arm of Diakhaby before being cleared, and after a VAR check the referee was in agreement, handing the away side a penalty and the chance to put the Valencia title dream under real pressure. Ivan Rakitic showed absolutely no sentiment to his former club as he stepped up and sent Cillessen, who was also a former Barcelona team-mate of his, the wrong way to put the visitors in front.
It proved to be the last chance of note, Valencia making changes and throwing everything forward in an attempt to get back on level terms, but with Sevilla showing some find resolute defensive work to limit the opportunities. As the final whistle blew, and news came in that Madrid had drawn, there was some initial confusion before it was confirmed the Spanish giants had retained their title, with both points and goal difference being equal, the head to head record and the thumping they handed out to Valencia recently proving decisive. It was heartbreak for the home side, who had led for so much of the season despite having an extremely limited budget and threadbare squad, although hopefully wants the dust settles it will be looked back upon as the great achievement it was, rather than with any hint of failure.Share this: