Once more, the benefits of talent grown in-house are there for all to see. Marcos Llorente has started two out of two post-Eibar and done well, Sergio Reguilón returned last night and played with real energy, Lucas Vázquez has scored twice in recent days (once in Rome and again this weekend), and Dani Carvajal was directly involved in both yesterday's goals. When a side suffers a slump such as Real Madrid have in the opening period of the LaLiga season - one that has left them well off the pace - that added injection of heart, enthusiasm and commitment brought by youth products is always key. Thanks chiefly to their academy graduates, Madrid got the win against Valencia, but by no means had it all their own way: after a first 45 in which they were well on top, they had to dig in right to the end in the second.
Real Madrid struggle in front of goal in dominant first half
Madrid were dominant throughout the first half, doing excellently to harry Los Che into errors when they didn't have possession. Yet the hosts were found wanting in front of goal: Valencia didn't get a sniff of the ball, but made it to half time trailing only to a Daniel Wass header into his own net. Karim Benzema is playing very well; with Cristiano Ronaldo no longer there, he's taken on a far greater degree of responsibility. But he's never been prolific. Gareth Bale offers more of a goalscoring threat, but is clearly playing with the handbrake on; indeed, the Welshman went off injured again yesterday, with the game deep into the second half and Madrid starting to feel the pressure. Bale hadn't actually performed that badly, unlike other occasions... but still left the field to whistles from the home support.
Asensio and Isco in unfortunate snub after final whistle
After the break, the game really was a different story. Some of Madrid's players didn't have the lungs to keep pressing with the same intensity, and Valencia grew in confidence and had as many as three clearcut chances, one of which was kept out by a fine Thibaut Courtois save. There was much to admire about the visitors' second half. Santi Solari turned to the bench to shake things up (with Isco his final substitute), but Madrid couldn't get the ball back. Valencia were playing the better stuff, but were also leaving themselves exposed on the counter, and on their third clear opportunity to break, Madrid got the goal that sealed the win. Amid huge relief, the team applauded the crowd as they left the field - with the exception of Marco Asensio and Isco, who wasted a good chance to keep the fans on side.