Goals always have a soothing effect when things aren’t going well. Real Madrid eased the pain with a prestigious win in Valencia yesterday. It would have been much harder to stomach the outcome of Friday’s Cup draw - seeing Barça, Valencia, Sevilla and especially Leganés handed their semi-final ties, had the team picked up a bad result at Mestalla. But that didn’t happen; instead, they gained a great result from a topsy-turvy game which they started and ended well but there were periods when they were up against the ropes – including a long, nervous spell in the second half when they were at Valencia’s mercy. It was just at the moment when Madrid were really having a hard time when Keylor Navas stuck out a foot to deny Dani Parejo from making it 2-2 when Zidane's team were collapsing.
Keylor Navas keeps Madrid in it at Mestalla
Football is, among many things, a game defined by fleeting moments. There were two such decisive ones yesterday which changed the course of the game. The first, was Montoya’s ridiculous shove on Benzema, which resulted in a penalty which once would have been considered a little harsh. Such penalty appeals generally aren’t given, but Montoya had already given away a penalty (a stonewall one) so he was already treading a fine line. The other decisive moment was Keylor Navas’ save, his outstretched leg diverting a Parejo effort that was heading in. Madrid looked jumbled until Zidane swapped Bale and Benzema for Lucas Vázquez and Asensio and the move had a big impact.
Benzema slopes off in a sulk
It prompts the eternal debate over the viability of the ‘bbC’ who are imperial going forward but idle when it comes to chipping in with defending chores. Valencia had Madrid by the short and curlies until two more dedicated players, very good ones too I might add, came on. And something else I noticed: Bale, the first to be substituted – after being involved in a great move, left the field as normal. Benzema however made a meal of his substitution, trudging back to the dug-out like a solemn widow in a funeral cortege. He didn’t even look up to make eye contact with Zidane. But after his withdrawal the game took a turn and Madrid bagged two more goals. The final few minutes, without two thirds of the bbC, were Madrid’s best moments in the entire game.