Title race blown wide open as Real hammer Valencia
Real Madrid blew the title race wide open as they hammered Valencia 3-0 in the big showdown at the weekend, to reduce the gap at the top to just one point with 2 games left to play. Valencia had travelled to the Bernabéu with some confidence, having previously beaten the current champions 4-2 in an impressive display just down the road in the Copa Del Rey final, but they had no match for a superlative display from Karim Benzema as Zinedine Zidane and his side ensured the title would go to the wire. Valencia were without José Gayà, suspended after his booking in the 5-0 win against Eibar, otherwise it was a clean bill of health. Hosts Madrid were without Modric and Hazard, while Ferland Mendy is also a long term absentee with a fractured leg. There was some doubt over Dani Carvajal too, due to a hamstring strain, but he was passed fit to play.
As expected from two sides with such attacking intent, the game got off to a flyer with Madrid going close in the opening minute. Despite Valencia getting the game underway, Varane won the ball back and the hosts played the ball around confidently before Benzema eventually looked right to find Eder Militão. A few passes later play was switched to the other wing where fit again Dani Carvajal advanced down the left. His cross was cut out by Diakhaby but Casemiro was on hand to feed the ball back into the area where Isco, looking slightly offside, made Cillessen work with a great close range effort, the former Barcelona keeper cutting the shot out for a corner. The resulting corner saw Valencia then look to break, Maxi Gómez driving forward on the counter, only to be clattered by Militão, who picked up a card for his troubles.
Still inside the opening 10 minutes, it was Isco again causing problems, this time a short free kick to Valverde being swung into the box for Isco, who this time opted to go low with his effort, Cillessen reacting quickly to get down low and hold. Valencia then went close themselves as both sides traded the early blows. A Carlos Soler free kick on the wide right was met by Maxi Gómez, who timed his leap to perfection to get above Casemiro, only to see his header hit the outside of the post and fall wide to safety.
3 minutes later Madrid went close with a header of their own. A throw in on the left by Carvajal was returned to him by Isco, and with Kroos in support the German midfielder delivered a superb cross field ball, finding Ángel Di María, who had ghosted in on the opposite wing, but the former PSG and Manchester United wide man couldn’t make Cillessen work with his header, which flew wide.
It was to prove a warning too far as minutes later the Bernabéu erupted as the defending champions took the lead. Di María was again involved, finding Isco again enjoying a little too much space down the left. This time the Spanish international opted to hold up play before finding veteran striker Karim Benzema, who unleashed an unstoppable curling effort beyond the scrambling Cillessen, a quite majestic strike worthy of such an occasion.
Just after the half hour mark the French striker went close again, an interchange of play between Valverde and Militão finding Di María, who in turn picked out his attacking colleague, this time the long range effort failing to trouble Cillessen as it flashed over the bar, to the relief of the visiting supporters. It was to be a temporary reprieve as minutes later the former Lyon forward had his second of the game. The 33 year old was found by Toni Kroos in the middle of the park, and opting to carry the ball forward and with nothing on, he decided to try his luck from range, producing another superb curling effort beyond Cillessen. It really was turning into the Karim Benzema show as he doubled his sides advantage.
Unsurprisingly, having come into the game knowing a win would have handed them the title, the visitors heads dropped, and just 2 minutes into the second half they conceded a 3rd from a set play. A Toni Kroos corner found Sergio Ramos unmarked to head home at the far post, ensuring the title battle would go to the wire and giving his side some revenge following their Copa Del Rey defeat earlier in the season at the hands of Los Che.
Valencia did go close to a consolation after a counter attack, Jason carrying the ball out from the back before releasing Gonçalo Guedes. The Portuguese front man did superbly well to beat Casemiro and find himself in space, but his eventually effort was met by an equally superb stop from Courtois to deny the goal. Valencia now need to pick up wins in their home games against Bilbao and Sevilla to ensure their first title in nearly two decades, while Real Madrid face easier opponents as they host Elche and travel to Valladolid on the final day as they look to retain the title they won last season.Share this: