Valencia are running, Real Madrid are strolling
Valencia ran, Real Madrid strolled. That sums up the game and explains the victory for Marcelino's side, who have been getting better week by week. They started the season badly, due to the poor form of some of their best players and various strokes of bad luck that turned victories into draws and draws into defeats. The bench feared the worst. But the club took the right decision and kept Marcelino on and the team are now in the final of the Copa del Rey, the Europa League quarter-finals and galloping up the table towards a Champions League spot, which is only a point away now. And as they say at the race-track here, a horse who catches up wants to win. Everything is looking optimistic at Mestalla right now.
That burning desire spurred the team on against a Real Madrid side that have lost all inspiration. While Valencia have three objectives this season, Real Madrid have none. They can't win or lose anything, only wait for summer, see who stays and who leaves. Zidane put out his most reliable side and the team controlled the ball, but not the match. They played with the relaxed air of a peaceful chap taking his dog out for a walk in the park. If there had been a tree on the pitch they'd have stopped there, to see if there was a call of nature. Meanwhile every time Valencia got the ball they ran with pace and enthusiasm. that's why they scored twice and were close to getting more.
The first goal was a decent Guedes effort, from a corner that was badly cleared by Keylor and badly defended by everyone else. The second came from another corner, at which Garay spectacularly beat Casemiro to the header. Madrid got a consolation goal in the 93rd minute, also from a corner, which rewarded Benzema's performance - he's having a solid season - but it was in truth Madrid's only chance of the game. That goal hides the truth of the match, if one were only looking at the scoreboard. Between this Valencia looking for Champions League football and this Madrid recovering from three set-backs there was a huge difference, the difference between enthusiasm and apathy, between running and strolling.