We all know that Valencia have not been going through...
Real Madrid 1-1 Valencia CF
A TACTICAL TRIUMPH BY PELLEGRINO ON HIS DEBUT
Valencia shocked the title holders by achieving a draw in the league debut in Bernabeu.
Pellegrino picked a starting lineup with Fernando Gago and Tino Costa in the pivot, which meant Valencia played without a pure defensive midfielder, and Jonas played as usual as the central attacking midfielder. Guardado, Gago and Joao Pereira debuted from the start, while striker Haedo Valdez got a few minutes at the end. The significant absentee was Pablo Hernandez. Although not surprising, as he might be on his way to Premier League football. If it’s true that he has requested a transfer, it’s understandable that the coach left him out. The last thing he want is a player with his mind and commitment elsewhere. Viera was also excluded in the end, and Pellegrino reasoned he needs more experience at this level before he gets his chance. Because this was a match for the experienced lot.
More surprising was perhaps Mourinho’s lineup. Higuain instead of Benzema up front, and with Lass instead of Khedira as Xabi’s partner in the pivot in a traditional 4-2-3-1. He then repeated his setup from last season’s match, when it ended 0-0. In the two mathces before that, Mou used something more similar to 4-3-3, as the side midfielders were so high up that they effectively became strikers. This resulted in such a pressure on Valencia, that Real Madrid often won the ball very high up on the pitch. In those two matches Valencia let in a total of nine goals! (3-6 and 2-3). During this match we saw that Mourinho eventually changed his mind, and returned to the 4-3-3.
The first few minutes were promising. Valencia had some play, even if they didn’t create any opportunities. They also looked well organized in defence, and the home team had a hard time breaking through. Instead Di Maria chose to use the aerial route, and liftet a great lobbing pass over the defence line, and to Higuain. The Argentinian shot, Alves saved! Higuain got the rebound and fired again, but Alves was there again! But since the Valencia players were still paralyzed, and failed in helipng out, Higuain found out that the third time is the charm as he finally managed to hammer it past Alves for 1-0.
1-0 after just 9 minutes, and it seemed like it would be a very long night for the Valencia players. But after the goal, Real Madrid again got stuck, and Los Che started to advance. Gago managed to find the Duracell rabbit Feghouli with long passes, and slowly, but steadily Valencia started to threaten Casillas.
But they still had just created no clear until they got a freekick a few meters into Real Madrid’s half. Tino then served a perfect, hard and precise cross. Casillas rushed out, but hit only his teammate Pepe. Instead Jonas got higher than anyone, and headed the ball into the empty net! Valencia had equalized, and scored their first goal at Bernabeu since Arizmendi’s goal in 2008!
Jonas flies highest, and heads in Valencia’s equalizer.
Better still, Valencia continued to look for another. Joao initiated a counterattack, and found Feghouli. Unfortunately Soso couldn’t control the ball, and pass it to a lone Soldado in front of goal, and Pepe tackled him.
No more happened before half time, and Valencia went to the dressing room in high spirit.
Back for the second half, Mou had to use his first substitution. Pepe got a nasty gash and felt groggy after his collision with Casillas, and was replaced with ex-Valencia Raúl Albiol.
Los Che showed some tendencies initially, but weren’t accurate enough in the last third. Instead the home team started to put the heat on, and Di Maria got close in 52nd minute, shooting just wide of goal.
But the match’s moment came in the 57th. Soldado was brilliantly played through on goal, rounded Casillas, and slided the ball into the empty goal! But when everybody thought Valencia had took the lead, the linesman thought otherwise. If you saw the match on television (which I bet you did), you never got to see if he was onside or not. The TV production team had missed it!
But the reaction from Soldado, the Valencia fans at the stadium, and Pellegrino hinted that it was at best a controversial decision. After the match a picture showing Ramos inside of Soldado as the pass from Tino was executed. If Soldado was offside, he must have come from one. And with the speed of the pass considered, that seems unlikely. Judge for yourself :
Is this offside?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59FbMldyeoY Link to the pass from @XimoVCF.
As quick as it went (Tino sent the pass from a quickly taken freekick), conspiracy schemers have no case, though.
After this incident, the tactical substitution duel started between Pellegrino and Mourinho. The latter subbed first, replacing Lass with Benzema. A clear message that he wanted to be numerically superior high up. Valencia felt the pressure, and especially the sides with Joao/Feghouli and Guardado/Mathieu found more work.
Di Maria fell down in the area, and claimed a penalty. Also here, TV footage gave no answer, but from what could be seen, it looked like nothing.
Pellegrino then took off an exhausted Guardado, and sent on a fresh pair of Piatti legs. He ran as a whirlwind at the merengue players, and also threatened the vast spaces behind them with his speed. Soldado was also subbed, a bold decision by Pellegrino, as he replaced him with Parejo. The madrileño gave Valencia a player who could hold on to the ball when they won it, and giving them a chance to get into Real Madrid’s half. Most importantly, Valencia had the numbers again to hold up Real Madrid, who had an uncomfortable domination.
Mourinho answered immediately, sacrificing Di Maria and put on yet another striker in Callejón. Then Higuaín hit the crossbar, and seconds later Alves again had to show his reflexes on a Benzema piledriver.
Pellegrino used his last sub, and gave Valdez his debut to give Valencia some muscle to hold the clearances. He never got to any chances on goal, but gave Valencia a corner, giving his teammates some breathing space. The seconds ticked away, and Real Madrid failed to get the winner. Valencia had held on, and gained an unlikely point.
Real Madrid were, like expected, superior in their play. But the duel between the debutant Pellegrino (remember, it was his first as head coach ever!) and declared genious Mourinho was a triumph for the old Valencia stopper.
The debutant and the master.
It was a team effort that made it possible. Especially, it was a delight to see the team work as a unit, covering eachother. It’s very early to draw conclusions, but already the defence look more organizes than under predecessor Emery.
Man of the match was without doubt Diego Alves. Several key saves, and good work in the area also. He knew when to stay put, and when to rush out. He can hardly be blamed for the goal against, as you’d expect two saves from short distance to be sufficient!
Another who really showed his worth was Joao Pereira. He neutralized Cristiano Ronaldo on the right, and also gave us a hint of his attacking qualities. Not only does he look like the perfect replacement for Miguel, but he also might be one of the best signings this summer regarding his relatively low price tag (€3,7 million).
The duo Gago/Tino weren’t really put to the test, as Valencia were pressed down to their own area, making the team very compact. But both managed to find space to play with the ball, even with plenty of opposition players around them. Gago gave some good passes, but was a bit inaccurate with others. Tino gave the assist on Jonas’ goal, and should perhaps had another when he sent Soldado through on goal. He also worked like a beast.
Diego Alves is modest, and credits higher forces for his brilliant saves.
Of the others the pair Ruiz/Ricardo Costa deserves a mention. Except for Higuain’s goal, where they totally fell asleep, they had a very good match. Especially Ricardo Costa was showed why he is captain material, while Victor Ruiz needs more work to get a spot when Rami is fit if he wants to start matches.
Players like Guardado and Feghouli must have run a marathon each of them, playing a big part in gaining a point from this encounter. Soldado was as expected very alone in attack, but showed he’s in form on the disallowed goal. Best of all, nothing showed of his injury. Jonas still baffles me. He seems so stiff and slow, but has an uncanny nose for goals. He really knows how to position himself when the ball arrives in the box.
The subs also played well, as they gave the team what it needed.
It is , of course, very early to assess this team from this match. But the first glance at the new Valencia give us hope that we have better things in store. It really showed that the players believe in Pellegrino. Many outsiders can’t understand why the club wanted to get rid of a manager that despite losing all his star players, managed third spot in La Liga three succesive seasons. But it ‘s about having harmony in the dressing room, and believing in the coach’s philosophy. With Unai that wasn’t there, even if they did their best to make it look like it. But now it really looks like it “Uno por todos, todos por uno!” (“One for all, and all for one!”).
Next up is Deportivo at Mestalla. It will be a clearer test to Valencia’s new playing style, as they are expected to win and dominate play. I know I can’t wait!
A por ellos! AMUNT!
|REAL MADRID||VALENCIA CF|
|Higuain 9 min||Jonas 41 min|
|REAL MADRID||VALENCIA CF|
4 Sergio Ramos
14 Xabi Alonso
22 Di María
7 Cristiano Ronaldo
|1 Diego Alves
12 Joao Pereira
20 Ricardo Costa
18 Víctor Ruiz
24 Tino Costa
|33 Felipe Ramos