After the way the summer panned out, Madrid lined up in their first home game of the season with James and Bale as starters, and without Pogba, naturally. The 'Zidane Plan' was left in a drawer and Madrid played with the same squad, plus James, who returned from Bayern after being ‘hired’ on a two-year loan spell. Atlético were interested and willing to pay 50 million euros for the Colombian; however, the 7-3 pre-season drubbing made up Florentino’s mind - giving his city rivals even more ammunition was never going to happen. And so Bale and James are now the ‘new boys’, lying in wait to see what happens or doesn’t happen with Neymar. With both in tow Madrid drew their opening home game of the season.
Bale, James and the first half
The result wasn’t their fault, I hasten to add. Bale looked driven and committed and much quicker than in any game last season, where recurring injuries looked at the forefront of his mind. James, meanwhile, was in the thick of the game and looked to shoot with any sight on goal, a throwback to his finest moments in Ancelotti’s Madrid. In fact, Madrid’s first-half performance was promising as they pressed high up the pitch, moved the ball quickly and shot on goal… but with limited accuracy. Valladolid, compact at the back, limited Madrid to half-chances and attempts that flew just wide of the mark.
Regression and Zidane's irritation
The second half was more unruly and there were points when it felt like we were watching Madrid last season – all at sea, distracted, indifferent. The game looked like a nailed-on 0-0 when Benzema retrieved a wayward Varane pass to score a wonderful goal. At this point he was joined by Jovic, whose header rebounded off the upright. The Frenchman’s goal appeared to be the winner, but a collective lapse in concentration led to the equaliser as Valladolid’s attacking endeavor was rewarded. “We can lose the ball but not our positioning,” said Zidane after the game. “After scoring late you have to kick it the hell out of there,” he added, clearly annoyed by the nature of the final result.