Real Madrid logged horns with Valencia in January, where Zine Zidane adopted a 5-man midfield to ensure more dominance at the center of the park. It proved to be a smart move as Valencia were crippled. The Los Blancos bagged full points. Madrid were experiencing their ups and downs and then the break for COVID-19 interfered, but football returned after a long break. That break seemed to help Real Madrid because their intent to win by dominating a match, which was absent before the break, is evident at present.

Valencia came at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium with the motive to test the nerves of Zidane’s men. Sadly, they left the pitch digesting 3 goals to nothing.

Isco was absent due to an injury, but Real had Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema, who weren’t available that day in January.

Zidane positioned four central midfielders behind those two, with Fede Valverde playing mostly on the right-wing in a role where he looked visibly frustrated not getting the ball when he made good runs in between Valencia’s lines.

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Real Madrid’s press, often led by Fede or Modric, was good early on, but the team left large gaps in transition.

In the first 45 minutes, Real did not have the same foothold.

Toni Kroos and Eden Hazard had squandered presentable early chances when teed up by Benzema, the latter shooting straight at Jasper Cillessen when one-on-one.

Rodrigo Moreno hit the post on one break in the 14th, where a Ferran Torres turn unlocked space behind Casemiro, and Ramos and Varane were caught with their high line.

Valencia also scored on a marginal offside goal which was ruled out.

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Those two sequences were the two-alarm bells that went off for Zidane’s men in the first 45 minutes.

Both goalkeepers were busy again before the break, Cillessen denying Dani Carvajal after a jinking run and Courtois parrying away Geoffrey Kondogbia’s long-range effort.

Valencia stayed compact at the center of the park and back – the usual style of their play, which allowed Madrid to exploit the flanks. Eden Hazard, Kroos, Casemiro, Fede, Modric all had struck on goal unchallenged.

Real  Madrid had more shots on target without scoring (8/9) than in any other first half in all competitions under Zidane.

Real were a different kettle of fish in the second half.

They started to dominate the game and disturbed Valencia’s compactness by breaking the lines, exploiting the flanks more enough, and brilliant body movements with or without the ball.

In the 61st minute Hazard picked up the ball on the left of the area and played a wonderful one-two with Luka Modric before teeing up Benzema, who arrowed his strike into the bottom-left corner.

Modric, who grew in influence after a quiet first half, brought the best out of Cillessen again with a long-range drive but there was nothing the keeper could about Asensio’s goal.

Ferland Mendy fired a cross in from the left and Asensio sensationally guided home a first-time volley into the right-hand side of the goal – his first goal since the injury last year. It was a breath of fresh air in the Real camp watching Asensio coming back and scoring for the Royal Whites.

Asensio scored in just 31 seconds after coming as a substitute in this match, which is the fastest goal by a Madrid-sub in LaLiga since at least 2006-07.

Benzema then put the cherry atop the cake with a delightful effort, lifting the ball over Hugo Guillamon before rifling a volley past a helpless Cillessen, with Lee sent off late on for kicking Sergio Ramos.

Karim Benzema has surpassed Ferenc Puskas in Real Madrid’s all-time scoring charts after scoring twice. as superb against Eibar and was even more influential here. His classy opening goal broke Valencia’s resolve whereas his fancy footwork gave Valencia’s defence nightmares at times and, had his team-mates been sharper in front of goal, he would have had a couple of deserved assists, too.

Real Madrid trail leaders Barcelona by 2 points.


Game on!

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